FORT PIERCE –  Treasure Coast Food Bank recently received a $1.5 million gift from philanthropist Bill Lichtenberger that will benefit the organization’s new initiative, the Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative.

The Collaborative is scheduled to open early 2017. It will be anchored at Treasure Coast Food Bank’s former distribution center in northern St. Lucie County and have the capacity to purchase and receive millions of pounds of produce grown by Florida’s farmers, then minimally process that produce, and third, distribute it to children, families and seniors through school districts and the local emergency food distribution network that Treasure Coast Food Bank operates in Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.

“What inspired me to give was a deep, personal desire of myself and my family to help provide affordable, high-quality food to people in need, while at the same time helping Florida’s small family farms,” said Bill Lichtenberger. “Farmers are indispensable to this community and all others, and I strongly believe this Food Bank program can provide local growers with the market incentives they so urgently need.”

In addition to establishing new markets for area farmers and their products, the Collaborative will share significantly more nutritious food with people in need. According to data from Feeding America, nearly 100,000 people along the Treasure Coast and in Okeechobee County were found to be food-insecure in the most recent annual census; this included 31,300 children. Further, researchers found that food costs along the Treasure Coast were growing rapidly with the average price per meal here at $3.27, far exceeding the national average of $2.89.

There are still other benefits. The Collaborative will serve as a low-cost source of food for school meals, create additional jobs and coordinate an internship training program for unemployed individuals to gain career skills in food production.

To learn more about the Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative, please call 772.489.3034 or visit

Photo of Judy Cruz (Treasure Coast Food Bank CEO), left, and Erin Neill Cox (Director of Food Safety & Sales for Big Red Tomato Packers and a TCFB Board Member) courtesy TCFB. Big Red Tomato is a farm that has been donating produce to Treasure Coast Food Bank regularly for several years.

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