Restoration of funding for the statewide Farm Share program that helps feed Florida’s hungry was unanimously supported by nearly 100 attending a special meeting of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) on Aug. 29.
Cheering Farm Share founder Patricia Robbins and her support team, KFHA members added more than 70 names to a petition to restore $750,000 in state funding approved by the legislature but later cut by Gov. Rick Scott on May 26.
State Rep. Frank A. Artiles (R-119) pledged equal support, declaring he would sponsor legislation in Tallahassee to provide Farm Share with $1.5 million by 2012, representing two years of state funding.
KFHA vice president Michael Rosenberg, initiator of the special appeal, said the 2011 legislative approval “was the only instance of Republican and Democrat unanimous support that increased annual funding in a budget-cutting year from $500,000 to $750,000 before their cooperative effort was vetoed by Scott.”
Robbins, who grew up on a farm in Dade City and has chaired the volunteer organization since 1992, passionately described Farm Share’s efforts that distributed 15.2 million pounds of food with a total value of $26 million to needy Florida children and adults during the past year.
Much of what Farm Share distributes to organizations feeding the hungry comes from unsalable produce obtained from Florida farms and dumpsters of discarded vegetables and fruits from supermarkets and other food retailers, she said.
“Of the last year’s effort, Farm Share was able to salvage 10 million pounds of produce and juice, and 5.2 million pounds of USDA frozen, canned and dry goods for our distributions,” she added.
Based in Miami-Dade County as a nonprofit food recovery and distribution program, Farm Share was described by Robbins as “Florida’s leader in the recovery, sorting, packing and delivery of nutritious food for people and families in need.”
Farm Share estimates that since 1991 it has distributed free of charge nearly 287 million pounds of food with a value of more than $501million, she stated.
Donated fresh produce is combined with USDA commodities has been given to Farm Share by packing houses located near Homestead in the heart of Miami-Dade’s farming area, and at Quincy in the North Florida panhandle.
Farmers donating surplus produce not only avoid landfill-dumping fees but receive IRS credits up to 200 perent of thrown-away produce value, she noted.
As “a farm youngster, I grew up with a real knowledge of how the value of a regular meal becomes so important in day-today living,” said Robbins, raised by a grandmother before coming to Miami- Dade County after an eight-year career in banking.
Later retiring from a family-owned wholesale seafood company in Miami, she volunteered to help Dave Friedrichs, a Homestead packing manager ”get rid of 15,000 pounds of surplus yellow squash and eggplant, not suitable for sale.”
When her home was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, she said she would, “still volunteer one day a week, but my heart got into it — there are so many hungry people and so much food available; all that’s needed is to get the two together.”
Working with Homestead distributors and Kristin McGregor, former Dade County Farm Bureau director, Robbins volunteered to help establish the program based in Florida City where she serves as president of the non-profit organization.
KFHA and other Farm Share supporters were urged to turn out at public hearings on the county’s budget scheduled Sept. 8 and 22, 5-11 p.m., at the downtown Government Center.
Farm Share, located at 14125 SW 320 St. in Homestead, can be contacted at 305- 246-3276 or by visiting online at www.farmshare.org.