Publix Super Markets and The Giant Company report big strides in efforts to help farmers and small food companies grapple with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After just two weeks, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix has purchased more than 1 million pounds of fruit and vegetables and over 100,000 gallons of milk from farmers saddled with surpluses to donate to Feeding America food banks.
Meanwhile, Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant said Monday that it has doubled funding to $500,000 for small businesses — all part of its home state’s food supply chain — under an emergency grant program done in partnership with Team Pennsylvania.
Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix kicked off its rescue program on April 22. Under the initiative, the Southeastern supermarket chain buys excess fruit, vegetables and milk directly from produce and dairy farmers, who have seen demand plummet due to business shutdowns and consumer lockdowns amid the pandemic. Publix then donates the produce and milk to food bank members of Feeding America in the grocer’s market area.
At launch, Publix said it would procure more than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk for donation. Through May 6, the amount of fruit and vegetables purchased more than quintupled, and the amount of milk bought more than doubled.
“We’re proud of the success this initiative has had in supporting farmers and families affected by the pandemic,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “As a food retailer, feeding families is our greatest opportunity to give back, and we are grateful to be able to do so while supporting produce and dairy farmers. During such challenging times, we are even more committed to supporting those in need and doing good, together.”
The rescue program saves farmers from being forced to discard surplus food while providing a lifeline to the 17 million people that Feeding America estimates will experience food insecurity because of the coronavirus outbreak, noted Publix, which operates 1,242 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
“There are some things you can’t plan for, and this is one of them,” commented Thomas Torbert, senior sales associate at 5 Brothers Produce, based in Florida City, Fla. “You just hope that you can find the right people to work with, people who can come up with the right solutions to help you make it through. We found that right partner in Publix.”
Harrisburg Dairies in Harrisburg, Pa., is one of the small businesses selected to receive funding under The Giant Company's emergency grant program. (Photo: Harrisburg Dairies)
In the Mid-Atlantic region, Giant said a “overwhelming response” to the emergency grant program, announced a month ago, led the company to boost its funding from $250,000 initially to $500,000. Overall, grants will be awarded to help support 110 small businesses in Pennsylvania’s food supply chain. More than 500 applications for the grants were received during the two-week application period, including more than 60 applications in the first 24 hours, Giant reported.
“Reviewing more than 500 applications from small businesses across the commonwealth confirmed what we knew in our hearts: that the pandemic is having a devastating impact on our small-business community,” according to Nicholas Bertram, president of The Giant Company. “We’re inspired by the strength and stories of these local businesses that, in many cases, have been serving our communities for generations. As a company focused on connecting families for a better future, doubling the funding to $500,000 was an easy decision because it meant we could provide more hope and help to these hard-working families and let them know that they are not alone.”
Coordinated with nonprofit Team Pennsylvania, the small businesses receiving grants represent multiple areas of the state’s food supply chain. They include dairy farms; beef, pork and poultry farms; processors; orchards; produce farms; apiaries; maple syrup producers; artisan cheesemakers; craft breweries, winemakers and cider producers; specialty yogurt, snack, sauce and condiment manufacturers; and a coffee roastery and confectioner.
The grants awarded range from $2,500 to $15,000, and 55% are earmarked for PA Preferred companies and special designations (LGBT-owned, veteran-owned, women-owned, minority-owned, USDA-defined beginner rancher/farmer, USDA-defined socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmer), Giant said.
“Our team was honored to work together with Giant to truly make a difference for small businesses in the commonwealth as they answer the call to feed fellow Pennsylvanians,” stated Ryan Unger, president and CEO of Team Pennsylvania. “Reading through the applications, it is crystal clear that we all need to find ways to support these critical cogs in our agricultural supply chain. Their experiences will inform us as we work with our economic development and public sector partners to reopen and recover.”
Part of Ahold Delhaize USA, Giant operates about 190 grocery stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.