A South Florida food bank has been blocked from delivering meals to those in need in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and the organization said they are looking to overturn the decision.
Feeding South Florida has been helping South Floridians in need for the past 40 years, and during the coronavirus pandemic, food deliveries and pickup proved vital for families in the region.
“There’s no organization that has done a better job at fighting food insecurity than Feeding South Florida,” Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said. “I would be very concerned about them losing funding to continue to be the premier organization in South Florida.”
The food bank lost its contract to feed those in need in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The Florida Department of Agriculture revised its regions for its Emergency Food Assistance Program.
“The commissioner needs to reassess the evaluation,” Broward County Commissioner Lamar Fisher said. “They have been here. They have been with us all this time and to not have them available to Broward County, it will be a disservice for our residents.”
A Florida Department of Agriculture spokesperson released a statement on the decision that reads, in part, “Our department employees are experts in evaluating federal grant applications to maximize taxpayer investment, and we are confident in our outstanding, transparent process for all publicly-funded programs and initiatives. As this matter has been referred to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, we cannot comment further.”
“It does seem wrong, and I’ll tell you why: because whether it’s a COVID-19 issue, whether it’s back to business as usual, there are still people that need food,” Fisher said.
“I, opposed, show that being cosponsored and pay as unanimously by a vote of 7-0,” Geller said.
Broward County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to ask Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried to reassess the decision.
“We have successfully managed the TFAP contract, the Emergency Food Assistance Program contract, for more than 20 years,” Feeding South Florida CEO Paco Vélez said. “Unfortunately, as when we pulled the records from the Department of Agriculture, we saw that there were many, many scoring errors.”
The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides Feeding South Florida with funding to purchase, store and distribute food to more than 80 different agencies on a weekly basis.
“Our disappointment is for the families,” Vélez said. “Our families are the ones that are going to, unfortunately, bear the brunt of this decision. We provide deliveries, not only to our partner agencies, but also home deliveries to families to ensure that they have food on their tables.”
Feeding South Florida is asking those affected by the state’s decision to reach out to Commissioner Fried’s office in hopes of altering the decision.