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Farm Share Says Food Insecurity Continues to Persist in Central Florida More Than a Year Into the Pandemic

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Photo: Maria Lin Kim

WMFE’s Danielle Prieur spoke with Farm Share’s Gil Zepeda about his projections for this year and how the organization is working with local farmers to put food on tables. 

He says up to 500,000 people in Central Florida are food-insecure. 

The conversation starts with Zepeda describing the current situation in the Orlando area.

Read the full conversation below. 

Gil: Due to the vaccine, beginning to take somewhat of an effect on the economy, we’re seeing some very good hope at the end of the year. Nevertheless, we have to understand that for right now, there are several industries that have not gotten back on their feet.

One of those being the tourism industry, which affects Central Florida extremely in high numbers when it comes to unemployment, when it comes to food insecurity.

And so until we in the state of Florida, get our tourism, and get our food and beverage and get our entertainment industries back to normal levels, where they were before the pandemic began, we have to continue to supply places like Central Florida, Orlando, with food in order to have their their folks eat in order to feed children. And in order to help those that have not yet recovered, recover this year and get them back on their feet.

Danielle: What is the need look like here in Central Florida? Do you have numbers or data on that?

Gil: We do. And so right now we’re looking at the Central Florida being anywhere from 300,000 to about 500,000 people that are food insecure every single day, you’re looking at about 50 to 65,000 children in the Central Florida area that are under food insecurity.

Danielle: Do you see there being any light at the end of the tunnel?

Gil: You know, we do and we’re happy to to you know, let folks know that that we are seeing good numbers begin to get back up. But it’s not a fast pace recovery.

We’re not looking at normal numbers. And then we’re talking about normal numbers as far as what they were before the pandemic started, which still showed the high numbers of food insecurity in Central Florida, nevertheless, never to the numbers that they are right now. So when we begin to see some good light is at the end of this year, beginning of next year.

To be very honest, we’re talking about maybe November, December, January, February will be the quarter that we’re looking to see numbers begin to get back into some sort of like regularity. As far as that’s concerned. Until then, we do still expect to see very high numbers.

Danielle: I had one last question. I know that at these events, there’s fresh produce and meat and dairy given out because this is actually stuff from local farmers. Can you tell me about how Farm Share is working with the USDA Farmers to Families Program to kind of make all of these food events happen?

Gil: A lot of folks don’t know that Florida farmers have to throw away at the end of the year anywhere from 30 to 40% of the yield of the crop. And so what Farm Share does is that we get together with these farmers may it be Florida’s dairy farmers, Florida orange farmers, Florida tomato, potato farmers in order to make sure that their crops do not go to waste.

And so we collect these crops, we bring them to our warehouses, we distribute them amongst the food pantries. And amongst the food distributions, in order to have this food that’s produced in the state of Florida not go to waste.

And folks will be happy to know that we also have a lot of food pantries, a lot of churches, a lot of soup kitchens, a lot of shelters that do supply folks with the very same food that we give them at the food distributions. They can go to farmshare.org and find a link there to be able to find a food pantry near their home that is available to them every day of the week.

Listen to the conversation, by clicking on the clip at the top.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur


Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.