Publix Super Markets Charities is once again donating $5 million to help feed the hungry in the seven states in which it operates.

“It’s vitally important for us as a food retailer — it’s the biggest single impact we can make,” said Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous. “It’s the right thing to do. Mr. George instilled in us the culture to give back. It’s not only a responsibility but a privilege to keep our communities healthy, to give back through food nourishment. We’ve carried that legacy on.”

Mr. George refers to George Jenkins, the founder of Publix Super Markets.

Publix Charities has donated $5 million a year for the past several years, totalling $17 million in four years, primarily to Feed America food banks, but also to non-profits, schools and programs that stuff backpacks for children or provide senior meal kits. The money also goes to mobile food pantries. “A lot of food banks are looking at those for serving communities in need,” Brous said.
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Since Agape shut down in Polk County in December 2017, Feeding Tampa Bay — the closest Feeding America food bank — has worked to serve the area. “It comes into Polk County and will pick up food from retailers and may drop off food at local agencies. Local agencies also can go to Tampa to get food there,” Brous said. “There’s a void without Agape.”

Feeding Tampa Bay Executive Director Thomas Mantz “and his team are doing a good job making sure they are providing service to our community. They worked diligently to come up with a plan,” she said.

Nearly 15 percent of people living in Polk County — or nearly 96,0000 people — suffer from some sort of food insecurity or hardship, a term coined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that means “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

In Polk County, according to Feed America’s data from 2016, the latest year available, 81 percent of residents likely fall 200 percent below the poverty line and could receive federal nutritional assistance from programs such as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“At Publix Charities, we understand the importance of proper nutrition and access to food. Our foundation is dedicated to giving nourishment and hope to our communities,” said Publix Super Markets Charities Executive Director Kelly Puccio

Donating food not only helps feed the hungry, it also helps the environment, Brous said. Food that is not donated ends up in the landfill, often in non-environmentally friendly containers. “It’s still wholesome food,” she said. “Feeding America is a great partner in helping retailers save that food and get it into the hands of children, the elderly” and others who are food insecure.

More than 250 non-profits will benefit from the donation. Publix will visit various locations today, starting in South Florida and Atlanta, to deliver checks and raise awareness about the hunger problem in America.

“We want to put a face to hunger,” Brous said. “Oftentimes we think (hungry people look a certain way), but people who are hungry can be overweight because they are eating the wrong things. We are holding events at food pantries to raise awareness of the issue.”

In addition to its donation, Publix also holds Food for Sharing fundraisers in the spring and fall, allowing customers and associates to donate money in varying amounts at checkout. In the last 10 years, Publix has donated nearly $70 million through this charitable event.