Florida farmers found an innovative and economical way to address supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and bring fresh, local Florida produce to its state prisons.
Through Dade County’s Farm to Inmate Pilot Program, South Florida farmers supplied and distributed 389,000 pounds of locally grown squash, green beans, cucumbers and lettuce to 35 correctional facilities across the state and saved Florida taxpayers $23,733.
The program attracted the attention of The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), and was a winner of its County Activities of Excellence Awards.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took to Twitter Friday to tout program which is a partnership between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Dade County Agriculture, Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes and the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC).
According to Ag Daily, the pilot program was a response to Florida’s emergency order to shutter businesses which routinely needed fresh produce. During that time, millions of tomatoes went unpicked or were unused or plowed back into the Florida soil. Meanwhile the state prisons needed fresh food.
Produce from Accursio & Sons Farm of Homestead and TKM Bengard Farms of Belle Glade was distributed by 5 Brothers Produce Company of Florida City to Florida Department of Corrections directly.
Ag Daily said, “The new inmate program will serve as a future model as more producers work together in efforts to maximize capabilities and drive-down pricing for locally-grown foods.
Local producers tend to be more competitive on pricing than their imported counterparts, but some farmers are worried that pipelines to new markets, such as the inmate population, could disappear once the pandemic subsides, and, once again, leave producers’ supply chains vulnerable to the next disaster.
“Whether it’s hurricanes or viruses, we must have access to serve our own communities with goods from our respective regions and be more resilient to change, working together locally,” said Steve Mathis CEO of Mathis Farms told Ag Daily.
Fried advised producers interested in competing for public contracts register with the State’s eProcurement platform at “MyFloridaMarketPlace.”