By Brannan Thomas
As part of U.S. Sugar’s commitment to growing safe, locally-available food for American families, our farms have remained open for business during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This past harvest season, our farmers worked around the clock to provide fresh food for our neighbors in Southwest Florida.
First, as “critical infrastructure,” we took early steps to protect our people, our vendors and our communities to remain open and producing food. Closing our operations to non-essential visitors; daily temperature checks; mandatory face masks; enhanced disinfecting of touchpoints, equipment, and facilities; social distancing; and strict adherence to all CDC guidelines helped keep essential food production jobs and our people safe.
Led by the sugarcane and vegetable farmers at U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and independent family farms, food donation sites were set up throughout in the Glades farming communities, in Leigh Acres, Punta Gorda, Ft. Myers, Naples, Indiantown, Stuart, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington and Greenacres. The farming companies partnered with Cheney Brothers to make deliveries, and vegetable packaging companies like Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Branch, and Pioneer Growers to provide fresh food such as green beans, sweet corn, organic rice, and bags of sugar to neighbors in need of food.
U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative formed the “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors” program to provide local Glades residents with 20,000+ hot meals from local area restaurants over several weeks (almost 600 meals per day).
Additionally, farmers provided more than 11,000 crates of locally-grown Florida sweet corn and 120,000 servings of green beans to residents across Southwest and South Florida, benefitting organizations such as the Harry Chapin Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Matthew’s House in Naples, Charlotte County Public Schools, Feeding South Florida, and churches of many different faiths, and to local, police, fire and first responders.
The people of U.S. Sugar provided N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves to all Glades-area first responders, local hospitals, and many independent medical providers.
Farming is all about feeding others, and it is part of our nature to a strong part of and give back to our local communities. Outside of a crisis, farmers do it every day. But during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Floridians can have faith in knowing that despite the limits placed on all of us, our state’s farms are open for business and will continue to provide fresh food around the clock for American families.
This upcoming fall when harvesting starts again, we are looking for more ways to bring fresh produce to our neighbors in Southwest Florida, even as our state and our country continue to face economic uncertainty. Farm jobs will remain strong, and food will be available.
For more information and to inquire about future tours of our farms, please visit www.ussugar.com.