As inflation rises across the country and fuels growing food insecurity in local communities, the largest food bank in Florida is scheduled to hold food distribution events on Friday in Gainesville and Saturday in Chiefland, delivering fresh produce and non-perishable goods to food-insecure residents of the city.
Farm Share, a nonprofit food bank based in Homestead, secures food and crops not sold by farmers and delivers them to Floridians in need. Serving all 67 counties in Florida, it has agencies and food pantries scattered throughout the state, with several stationed in Gainesville.
Gil Zepeda, the marketing director for Farm Share, said as the cost of living increases and the demand for the services of food banks rises, local communities are in desperate need of the organization’s aid. Such challenges, including a reduction in supplies, have been impairing food banks across north central Florida for some time.
Food insecurity still remains a prevalent issue in Florida, with over 2 million people facing hunger, according to data from Feeding America.
The drive-thru event on Friday will be held at 635 Northwest 6th Street Gainesville and will go from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. while supplies last. On Saturday, people can collect food at Strickland Park 2340 Old Fannin Road Chiefland from 8:30 a.m. until supplies last. Farm Share also held an event on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. at 6419 W Newberry Road in Gainesville.
Farm Share plans on handing out roughly 25,000 pounds of food, which would feed around 500 families, Zepeda said. For the event on Friday, the organization partnered with Project YouthBuild, an educational program for young individuals living in low-income housing who haven’t earned their high school diplomas, which is providing volunteers to help distribute supplies.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Farm Share is implementing social distancing guidelines for its drive-thru event and is requiring those coming to the distribution to arrive in a vehicle with a trunk or flatbed to receive handouts.
Farm Share held a similar event in Gainesville in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, handing out canned goods and produce with no human contact.
Zepeda said these events are very common, though he was expecting them to grow scarce due to a number of factors straining the nonprofit like the pandemic, rising inflation and relief efforts for Hurricane Ian and Nicole.
For Hurricane Ian alone, Farm Share sent dozens of trucks worth of supplies to affected areas in the first week after the hurricane made landfall, distributing around 1.8 million pounds of aid before FEMA arrived, Zepeda said.
Since its establishment in 1991, the organization has given out more than 751 million pounds of food. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it distributed over 104 million pounds of food and delivered more than 86 million meals to food-insecure Floridians, according to internal data from Farm Share.