Hurricane Helpers: Industry Players Step up to Aid in Relief Efforts

STAFF REPORT - Aid from every corner of the food industry has been pouting in to areas of Florida stricken by Hurricane Charley.

Disaster relief efforts in Southwest Florida got a boost last Friday when Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie Stores donated its 1 million-square-foot warehouse facility in Sarasota to the American Red Cross for the next 90 days. The warehouse will serve as the central distribution center for the Red Cross' relief efforts.

"We had just recently vacated the warehouse, and were going to sublease it to another company," Joanne Gage, spokeswoman for Winn-Dixie, told Progressive Grocer. "After the hurricane hit, we decided to put those plans on hold and let the Red Cross have it. In addition, we are providing three employees to help with the logistics."

Red Cross officials expect to use about 425,000 square feet of the facility as a logistics center for distributing emergency supplies, water, and food for victims in the affected areas of Central and Southwest Florida. Winn-Dixie's Sarasota distribution center is larger than other staging areas and central to the areas hardest hit by the hurricane.

Hungry Floridians who were left homeless by the storm received 140,000 pounds of donated sliced turkey, spiral hams, hot dogs, lunchmeats and other processed turkey and pork products from Smithfield Packing Co. The meatpacker donated $260,000 worth of products to Florida residents, the equivalent of about 560,000 meals. The donation was shipped in four trucks to America's Second Harvest of Tampa Bay beginning last Friday by Smithfield Packing Co. Atlas Cold Storage of Plant City is storing the donated meat for America's Second Harvest at no charge while the distribution is being finalized.

"Hurricane Charley caused a great deal of hardship for our neighbors up and down the Gulf Coast, and we felt we could help the most by helping feed those people victimized by the storm," said Doug Crouser, Smithfield’s v.p. of operations. Crouser said the company also donated 40,000 pounds of ice to the Polk County Recovery Operations Center for the hurricane relief effort.

Publix Super Markets teamed up with Sparta, Mich.-based Old Orchard Brands to provide 54,000 bottles of juice to relief agencies and victims. Old Orchard¹s $125,000 in-kind donation of a variety of its products was loaded onto four semi-trailers last Thursday to be sent to Publix's Lakeland, Fla. regional distribution center for dissemination to the areas most edvastated by Hurricane Charley. Publix will then oversee the distribution of the 112 pallets of juice containing 6,720 cases or 54,000 bottles of 64-ounce juice products.

Said Dwaine Stevens, community relations manager for Publix, "Teaming up with Old Orchard to help our customers and theirs in a time of need is the least we can do. The next several weeks are going to continue to be challenging for the residents of Florida, but Publix, with the help of others, will make sure we do what we can to make sure that they have basic food essentials."
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