Pallets of donated fresh produce await breakdown and distribution by volunteers through a donation Southeast Produce Council program. ( Courtesy Southeast Produce Coiuncil )

To help alleviate the backlog of foodservice produce inventory, as well as the strain on local retailers and community members, the Southeast Produce Council distributed free produce to people in the Jenkins County area of Georgia. 

On March 27, council members packed, shipped, unloaded, re-packed and distributed more than 15,000 pounds of fresh produce using a drive-thru format to maintain social distancing and serve as many as possible, according to a news release.

Almost 600 families picked up free produce.

The council said it wants to thank US Foods, Nickey Gregory Company and Shuman Farms for donations and Millen Baptist Church, Millen community leaders and community volunteers for donations of time, energy and resources.

Council president and CEO David Sherrod cited in the release an industry estimate of at least $1 billion of perishable commodities have no dedicated destination because of the closures of foodservice establishments, including restaurants, hotels, schools and universities.

The council’s SEPC Cares initiative could be used to help out in this crisis, he said.

“We know that families are hurting right outside our office door, and in working with our produce partners and our local community leaders, we were able to create a quick turnaround to get this product into consumers hands in a timely manner,” Sherrod said in the release. “Not only are we able to reduce food waste from the effects of the situation we’re in, but we are also able to extend a helping hand to people in need.”

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