Fresh farm produce harder to find for nonprofits during pandemic

Society of St. Andrew searches for farmers nationwide as local farming season slows down

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Cloudy skies were no match for clear determination in the fields of Long & Scott Farms in Orange County.

Dozens of volunteers with the Society of St. Andrew showed up to help collect corn to be donated to area food pantries.

Society of St. Andrew is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping combat hunger in the United States.

"We’re in a completely different time now," Florida Program Coordinator Kelly Sizelove said. "Our situation is whoever need some food, will get some food. Today it’ll probably go to 10-15 different food pantries in the central Florida area."

News 6 recently showcased a Disney union drive-through food pantry, which featured fresh produce donated by the Society of St. Andrew.

MORE: Disney union hosts drive-thru food pantry for hundreds

"If somebody in California says I have eight pallets of pineapples, we will find a home for those pineapples," Sizelove said. "Then we do what we're doing today, which is gleaning, which is going into the field when farmers are done with their harvest and they allow us to pick what they’re not going to harvest."

However, there are only so many ears left in these Florida fields. Sizelove told News 6 that the Society of St. Andrew is now looking at farm producers from all over the country, hoping to find help to meet the demand here in the sunshine state.

"We try to always be doing something, but the season does wind down as far as farming goes," she said. "There’s talk about blackberries, there’s talk about watermelons. We’re trying to find every type of produce that any farmer is willing to donate."

Sizelove said the non-profit's Florida office broke a record this year and moved more than 1 million pounds of food in April alone.

"Last year alone, we moved 2.5 million [pounds of food] and we’re at 3.5 million and we’re only at June," she added

The need for fresh from the farm produce isn't going away during this pandemic, as thousands of people are still furloughed and without work.

Volunteer Shanna Elsberry understands the need; she was furloughed from her job in the hospitality travel industry in mid-March.

"If I was not here, i would probably be still sleeping," she said. "And then, applying for jobs, that’s about it."

Sizelove told News 6 that the pandemic has kept the non-profit busy over the past several months.

"In this COVID-19 situation, we’ve been out here more times than I can count because sadly they were unable to sell everything, so they donate it," she said. "We’re exhausted. When there’s no longer a need, we’ll be happy to take a break."

If you would like to donate to the Society of St. Andrew, click here.

About the Author: