(FDACS) — Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried toured Pero Family Farms, a fifth-generation family farm and sustainable producer of fresh seasonal produce such as peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers, some of Florida’s leading seasonal crops. Fried was joined by Pero Family Farms CEO Peter Pero and Executive Vice President Frank Pero, Feeding South Florida CEO Paco Vélez, Boynton Beach City Commissioner Ty Penserga, and representatives of State Senator Lori Berman, State Representatives David Silvers and Joe Casello, and Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard.
Following the tour, Commissioner Fried announced new legislation creating a $500,000 grant program to support and promote food recovery efforts between local farms and food banks. Farmworkers and local non-profit volunteers often collect leftover produce from farm fields for distribution through food banks to families in need, a process the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services helps coordinate. Fried’s legislation will help promote the food recovery program to more non-profit organizations across Florida and support the efforts of non-profits to reduce food waste. The legislation will be filed in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
“Florida produces a huge volume and variety of farm-fresh food, with over 300 different commodities. Yet so many Floridians struggle with chronic hunger, and too many children don’t know where their next meal will come from,” said Commissioner Fried. “Feeding South Florida is doing their part, distributing 60 million pounds of food to over 700,000 people a year. Pero Family Farms is doing their part, recovering and donating annually 2 million pounds of produce from their fields. Now, we’re helping other farms and non-profits do their part, by asking lawmakers to support $500,000 in grant funding to help promote food recovery efforts. By helping move leftover produce from fields to food banks, we can reduce food waste, break the cycle of food insecurity, and provide families in need with Fresh From Florida nutrition.”
Nearly 3 million Floridians face food insecurity, including 850,000 children. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, and food makes up over 20 percent of total landfill weight in the U.S. Commissioner Fried has made addressing food insecurity one of her top priorities, including ensuring children can access healthy food year-round, supporting regional and local food banks, and pushing back on proposed cuts to SNAP nutrition assistance.