JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Winn-Dixie Stores on Wednesday announced the donation of a 50-ft. refrigerated semi-trailer to Second Harvest North Florida, the regional food bank that supplies food to 450 local nonprofit organizations across 17 counties in northern Florida.
Winn-Dixie donated the trailer after learning the food bank's existing trailer was no longer road-worthy and is being used as an auxiliary refrigeration unit to store perishable foods. The trailer was loaded with approximately 13,000 lbs. of food to restock the food bank's nearly empty warehouse.
"Winn-Dixie is in the food business. So it's only natural that we're eager to partner with Second Harvest to address what, to many, is an invisible problem," Winn-Dixie regional VP Randy Rambo said. "When we learned about Second Harvest's need, we knew what had to be done in the short and long term."
The food donated today by Winn-Dixie is being put to immediate use through Second Harvest's Mobile Pantry and its BackPack programs. The specially-wrapped trailer will act as a rolling billboard to educate the public about the region's hunger problem while transporting food to senior centers, soup kitchens, youth and adult daycare facilities, homeless shelters, church food pantries and feeding programs for school children.
"This is a real godsend," stated Bruce Ganger, executive director for Second Harvest North Florida. "We are the link between surplus food and local nonprofits serving people in need. We have seen demand nearly quadruple in the past four years and we can't serve the need without a trailer like this."
In 2008, Second Harvest distributed 7.6 million lbs. of food. In 2009, that increased to 11 million lbs. The need continued to grow to 19.3 million lbs. in 2010 and 20.1 million lbs. in 2011. Ganger said that in 2012, Second Harvest will distribute 24 million lbs. of food — equivalent to 20 million meals.
Ganger hopes today's donation will encourage other companies and individuals to donate food or funding to Second Harvest. He said that a $1 donation provides seven meals. Many of the families the food bank serves make too much money to qualify for federal benefits but too little to make ends meet.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Winn-Dixie launched its food recovery program with Second Harvest North Florida. Prepackaged foods from the grocer's in-store bakeries and delis, produce, and meat and seafood departments that had previously been discarded on their "sell by" dates are now donated to the food bank. The program was expanded company-wide later that year and has been replicated by other grocers.