Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Banks Compete for Distribution Rights; Uncertainty over Supplies a Concern for Organizations Who Offer Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Banks Compete for Distribution Rights; Uncertainty over Supplies a Concern for Organizations Who Offer Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

The ongoing duel between two Jacksonville-based regional food banks continues, this time over distribution rights to federally supplied food.

The latest tug of war has at least one food pantry manager worried that the food bank pipeline will be disrupted, leaving the hungry to remain hungry.

New contracts to distribute federally supplied food in 17 Northeast Florida counties for 2014-15 - beginning Wednesday - were awarded last week to two teams of bidders. Distribution rights to 11 area counties, including Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns, went to Second Harvest of Central Florida and its local affiliate, Feeding Northeast Florida. Six other counties went to Farm Share and its local partner, Nourishment Network.

The awards were put on hold when Second Harvest served notice that it intends to file a bid protest over the six counties Farm Share received.

Bidders have 10 days to file a formal protest, said Erin Gillespie, a spokeswoman for the state Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program.

"In the meantime, we do not expect food distribution to be delayed. There are several options that we are considering," she said.

Gillespie said she expected to have more information Tuesday "on what the plan is during the protest period."

The federal Emergency Food Assistance Program annually funnels about $3.2 million in food to Northeast Florida, which Lutheran Social Services, the parent of Nourishment Network, has distributed for years. The current four-year contract was to expire in September 2015, but the state opened up the last year of the contract.

That move followed a series of local food bank controversies, including Lutheran Social Services being terminated as a part of Feeding America after failing to meet the national food bank network's standards; the formation of Feeding Northeast Florida as a new network affiliate; and the former director of the existing food bank becoming director of the new one.

"We were pleased that we were ranked so high and received the initial award to distribute in the 11 counties," said Bruce Ganger, president and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida, which formerly ran the Lutheran Social Services food bank and has been sued by his former employer. …

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