Connecting food buyers and sellers during COVID-19 disruptions
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to Florida food markets. Sales of food products to restaurants and schools have fallen drastically. Some farmers markets have closed. Sales through grocery stores spiked upward initially, but recent limits on the number of shoppers have dampened demand at stores. Online food sales and home delivery have increased. Consumers are changing purchasing patterns, and farmers and distributors who lost markets are trying to adapt. More farmers are trying to sell online. Wholesale distributors are selling produce boxes directly to consumers. Drive-through farmers markets have opened.
Helping Buyers and Sellers Connect
Various initiatives have been launched in Florida to help sellers and buyers connect under these new circumstances. Some efforts focus on the availability of individual products. Other efforts provide lists or directories of places where consumers can buy local food, beyond the grocery store.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) created an Agricultural and Seafood Availability Notice form to collect information on available products. Product suppliers can submit individual commodities they have available, and FDACS will post the information on their website.
Hillsborough County Extension is creating a surplus produce directory for that part of the state. Hillsborough-area produce sellers can fill out an online Surplus Produce form and list individual products available.
Directories of Local Food Sellers
The FDACS Fresh From Florida program has a website listing various types of markets and suppliers of Florida agricultural products.
Feeding Florida created a map and directory of Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) markets currently operating. The FAB program provides discounts (doubles your money) on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchases of Florida-grown produce.
Edible South Florida created a list of places to buy local food products in South Florida. Their list includes online and drive-through markets.
The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFV&A) has a website to help publicize Florida farms selling produce directly to consumers. You can email them at email@example.com to be added to their site.
FDACS and UF/IFAS are creating a statewide list of farms, distributors, and online markets selling Florida-grown food directly to final consumers. Local food sellers can use a Direct and Online Seller Form to be added to the list. The list will be made public on an FDACS website.
These and other initiatives are trying to help Florida sellers and buyers connect and adapt to food market disruptions.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Transition Sarasota, a local non-profit, and UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County are teaming up to get the word out about available food products and services. Visit the Transition Sarasota website to view a regularly updated list of local growers providing food purchasing/pickup options.