Judith Cruz (left), CEO of the Treasure Coast Food Bank, visits with TCFB board member Erin Nell Cox of Big Red Tomato Packers. The company is among those that will benefit from the food bank’s new production kitchen, set to open in early 2017. That kitchen will also help to feed the many people along the Treasure Coast and in Okeechobee County who are food-insecure.
The Treasure Coast Food Bank’s (TCFB) new production kitchen, planned as part of a groundbreaking initiative that begins this winter, got a major boost this month with a $1.5 million contribution from local philanthropist Bill Lichtenberger.
He won the President’s Award from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties four years ago for gifts just such as this.
Lichtenberger intends the cash award to serve twin purposes: aiding the Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative, in getting fresher and more nutritious produce to the food bank’s clients, while reducing spoilage loss; and making it easier for local farmers to get their less-marketable, excess and donated foods to those who need it.
“What inspired me to give was a deep, personal desire of myself and my family to help provide affordable, high-quality food to people in need, while, at the same time, helping Florida’s small family farms,” Lichtenberger said.
“Farmers are indispensable to this community and to all others, and I strongly believe this food bank program can provide local growers with the market incentives they so urgently need,” he added.
Big plans for the Treasure Coast Food Bank
The Treasure Coast Food Bank wants to open its Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative (FANC) in early 2017. It will be anchored at Treasure Coast Food Bank’s former distribution center in northern St. Lucie County and have the capacity to buy and to receive millions of pounds of produce from Florida farmers, and then to process that produce.
After that, FANC’s ready-to-use products will be distributed to children, families and seniors through school districts and the local emergency food-distribution network that Treasure Coast Food Bank operates in Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.
In addition to establishing new markets for area farmers and their products, the Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative will be able to share significantly more nutritious food with people in need.
According to data from Feeding America, nearly 100,000 people along the Treasure Coast and in Okeechobee County were found to be food-insecure in the most recent annual census; that number includes 31,300 children.
Researchers also found that food costs along the Treasure Coast were growing rapidly. The average price per meal is $3.27, exceeding the national average of $2.89 by 13.15 percent.
A few ancillary benefits come with the collaborative: It will serve as a low-cost source of food for school meals, create additional jobs, and coordinate an internship training program for unemployed people so they can gain career skills in food production.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative
Chris Felker writes and edits for various South Florida media, including Okeechobee the Magazine and The Town-Crier in Wellington. He has lived in Palm Beach County for over 30 years. Prior to becoming a freelancer, he served as an editor for The Palm Beach Post for 22 years.