Publix has started a program to benefit farmers and the communities in which their stores operate. ( Publix )

Publix plans to support farmers and people in need in the areas it serves with a new initiative to buy additional produce and milk to donate to Feeding America food banks.

The program launched this week and is expected to continue for several weeks, according to a news release.

“As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in the release. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, Southeastern dairies and families in our communities.”

Many produce and dairy businesses have suffered due to the collapse of the foodservice market as schools have closed and restaurant purchases have plummeted.

“Like so many others right now, Florida farmers are in a time of need,” Pero Family Farms CEO Peter F. Pero IV said in the release. “We are humbled Publix is purchasing additional fresh vegetables from us and other local farms to donate to food banks throughout the Southeast.

“Thank you to Publix, the participating food banks and their volunteers for making this initiative possible for those less fortunate while supporting local farms,” Pero said.

Publix has donated more than $2 billion in food to people in need since 2009, and it has committed another $2 billion in food donations over the next 10 years, per the release.

During the pandemic, the company’s charitable organization has donated $2 million to support Feeding America food banks.