Feeding South Florida has helped provide meals for over 700,000 people in our area and almost 1.5 million people at the height of the pandemic, but now they’re at risk of losing a major contract, which could impact their services.
For over 20 years, Feeding South Florida has been awarded a contract called The Emergency Food Assistance Program. However, this year the Florida Department of Agriculture favored another unidentified organization for the grant.
“Without this contract we won’t be able to respond to the disasters as we have in the past,” said Paco Velez, President and CEO of Feeding South Florida.
The nonprofit says they won’t be closing their doors, but they need these funds to allow them to keep helping families put food on the table, especially as they’re still recovering from the hardships of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Over the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic from March to February, Feeding South Florida distributed 183 million pounds of food,” said Velez.
“Without this contract, a lot of that product flows through the TEFAP contract, which will really inhibit us from doing our work as effectively as South Florida has come to expect from us and will really hurt our families more.”
Velez went on to say that the scoring system that was used to select the contract was flawed.
“We reviewed the scores and there were blatant errors and a lot of inconsistencies in the scoring and really no scoring rubric,” said Velez.
On Tuesday, Broward County Commissioners supported Feeding South Florida passing a resolution 9-0 urging decision makers to reconsider.
“We’re asking the Commisioner to review those scores and rescore it accurately and then re-award accordingly,” said Velez.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed her support for the organization and weighed in on the issue.
“Well before the pandemic they have met the needs of the community over and over again,” said Wasserman Schultz.
“There is no organization that could have been chosen that could hold a candle to the role that Feeding South Florida has played. I agree, I too am concerned and have inquired with the Department of Agriculture about how this decision could have been made.”
A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Agriculture had this statement regarding their decision:
“Helping Florida’s families in need access healthy nutrition is one of our department’s top priorities, one shared by our talented partners and vendors. Our department employees are experts in evaluating federal grant applications to maximize taxpayer investment, and we are confident in our outstanding, transparent process for all publicly-funded programs and initiatives. As this matter has been referred to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, we cannot comment further.”