Farmers statewide are partnering with the Florida Food Recovery Program (FFRP) to reduce food waste across Florida to help lessen food deserts in local communities.
The program, an initiative led by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), offers healthier food options for consumers who rely on food assistance programs such as food banks.
FFRP partners with the Society of St. Andrew, a statewide gleaning organization that provides volunteers to glean the fields at the end of a harvest season.
By providing their surplus crop to local food banks and pantries, farmers are reducing food waste by allowing volunteers to glean their fields.
Melanie Mason, Food Recovery specialist with FDACS, said the volunteers are also able to glean produce that is deemed imperfect by some retailers but are accepted at a food bank.
“We are focusing mainly on food recovery in schools and on farms right now,” As participation increases we are open to engaging in all types of food recovery,” said Mason.
Mason said their biggest success to date was in Palm Beach County with Heritage Farms where the organization has collected more than 30,000 pounds of produce that went to a local food bank. With donations of this magnitude, Mason said it can be difficult for smaller pantries to accept the donation. However, there are larger food banks that are more than willing to stock their shelves.
“The goal is to keep the food as local as possible,” Mason said.
Farmers who participate in FFRP may qualify for a tax deduction when their excess fruits and vegetables are donated to those in need. State and Federal laws protect farmers from liability when making donations of food to nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry.
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 is a statute that protects farmers from civil and criminal liability associated with the donations of food made in “good faith.” The Act also protects farmers in the event one individuals collecting food for donation to charity are injured on their property.
Mason helps identify farmers, volunteers and non-profit organizations interested in food recovery. For more information on the food recovery program, contact Melanie Mason at