Food boxes filled with carrots, bananas, kale and corn are helping Boys & Girls Club families stay healthy and fed while sustaining small farmers in Florida who are struggling with wide sweeping closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Farm to Family initiative is a partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and Fresh RX Kids, a food program that educates children about nutrition and supports doctors who prescribe fresh produce for patients. Shortly after many schools and Clubs closed in March to prevent community transmission of the global pandemic, a Florida farm owner and local philanthropist offered help to Clubs.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County set up a distribution network so Club families can drive-by to collect a food box with organic produce, bread and eggs from farmers as well as canned and dried goods from local food banks. Using donations from the public, the Club is purchasing food from farmers at a wholesale price. The farms, who are at the height of the growing season in Florida, typically sell their crops to restaurants and farmers markets who are shuttered during the pandemic.
“We do whatever it takes to meet the needs of families. At this point, nothing is more important than keeping people healthy,” said Jaene Miranda, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. “It’s vital to eat well, keep bodies strong and fight this terrible virus.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is also distributing grab-and-go lunches to youth who typically rely on schools and after-school programs for daily meals. However, many parents who are at risk of losing part-time jobs expressed even greater need to keep their pantries stocked.
Farm to Family began distributing boxes for families at two Clubs and plans to increase operations to serve 13 Clubs for at least 8 weeks. The duration of the program depends on total funds raised, with more than $200,000 raised in the first week. A $30 donation covers the food and transportation costs for one box containing a week’s supply of food for a family of four.
"Our local farmers have fields of produce that can provide desperately-needed nutrition to these children and their families through the Farm to Family program," said Margaret Duriez, founder of Fresh RX Kids. "In partnership with Boys & Girls Club of Palm Beach County, we are asking the community to get involved and help broaden our reach to more families in the county."
Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County are contacting families who cannot attend the distribution event to arrange other options. Remaining boxes could be provided to part-time staff members at the Clubs, while the organization accepts donations and identifies grant funding to continue their employment.
“We want to make sure we can open our doors at the end of closures caused by COVID-19,” Jaene said. Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County has response plans ready for hurricanes and unforeseen accidents, but an unexpected global health crisis that can endure for months has challenged Clubs to be creative and flexible.