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Publix is buying excess milk and produce from farmers — and donating it to food banks

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Farmers around the country have been forced to dump milk and waste fresh produce as schools, restaurants and other institutions remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Supermarket chain Publix launched a new initiative Wednesday to help struggling farmers — and get the food to Americans who need it most.

The company's press release said it will purchase fresh produce and milk from farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and donate the goods directly to Feeding America food banks that are in its "operating area." During the first week of the initiative alone, some 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk is expected to be donated, the company said.

"As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic," said Todd Jones, Publix CEO. "In addition to providing much needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time."

The company will purchase food from Florida produce farmers and southeastern dairy farmers through the initiative. It is kicking off Wednesday and is "expected to run for several weeks," according to the release.

In addition to the new initiative, Publix Super Markets Charities recently made donations which totaled $2 million to help Feeding America's member food banks amid the crisis.

The need for supplies in food banks around the country has surged, as millions of people are now out of work due to coronavirus. More than 22 million Americans are estimated to have filed unemployment applications since the pandemic began — with many still waiting for their first payment, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of unemployment claims data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Within the past month, we have seen an absolutely uptick of people that are now furloughed or unemployed," Dr. Jessica Rosati, chief program officer at food bank Long Island Cares in New York, recently told CBS News. "So, that's a newer face that we're seeing at the food bank."

Feeding America, which is the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S., said that before the coronavirus crisis there were 37 million people in the nation who did not have enough food. The number is now expected to increase by an additional 17 million.

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