Farm Share provides produce, supplies to victims of Hurricane Irma

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While most residents in the Greater Jacksonville area have seen their power restored following Hurricane Irma, many are still in need of fresh food and supplies. Seeing those needs, Farm Share, a Florida-based nonprofit, has stepped in to lend a helping hand.

Saturday, Sept. 16, Farm Share distributed food and supplies to families in Jacksonville with the help of the Florida Highway Patrol. Attendees included several elected officials, including Rep. Tracie Davis, Rep. Al Lawson, Sen. Audrey Gibson and Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney.

“We ended up distributing about 60,000 pounds of food, hurricane relief items, water, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), fresh produce, blankets and just different things that we could help them get, because there’s still a lot of folks without electricity, and even if they got it back, lots of them lost food,” Jacksonville Facility Manager Gerald Sweatt said.

Founded in 1991, Farm Share is a nonprofit organization that seeks to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by distributing fresh food to those who need it most. To do so, the charity recovers fresh produce marked as waste by farmers and redistributes it throughout Florida.

“They are perfectly healthy and nutritious vegetables, but they’re too long or too short; they don’t fit that nice little green package that Publix, or Winn-Dixie or the other grocery stores want them to fit into, so for the purposes of the industry, they’re considered trash and they get dumped into a landfill or back into the farm field itself,” Farm Share Chief Operating Officer Stephen Shelley explained. “We go out there, work with them, we acquire that produce and we turn around and give it out to everybody, free of charge. That was the concept that Farm Share started with more than 20 years ago, and it’s blossomed now into a statewide organization.”

According to Shelley, Farm Share has three methods of distributing the acquired produce and supplies throughout the state. One method is through partnering with other charitable organizations, or “agencies,” which make distributions at the local level. Other methods include community distributions from Farm Share’s facilities, in addition to weekly food drops to food banks.

“In this particular case, because of the hurricane, we have increased the number of drops that we’re doing in a shorter period of time, and we’re trying to focus on those areas that have been hardest hit,” Shelley said. “All of the places that have been hit by Irma, we’ve got trucks going right now on a daily-basis, multiple times a day.”

 Those trucks require fuel, however, and the organization is requesting monetary donations to help cover the costs.

“Our fuel bill has been much higher than budgeted for,” Shelley said. “To help us get some extra dollars to cover the fuel costs and to acquire some additional supplies, donations would be very beneficial at this time.”

Donations can be made via farmshare.org, or by calling (305) 246-3276 or texting "EAT" to 41-444.

Farm Share will hold another local food drop this Saturday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to noon at Schell-Sweet Community Resource Center, which is located at 1697 Kings Road in Jacksonville. For more information about the event, call (904) 470-8930 or contact information@farmshare.org.

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