FORT PIERCE – Treasure Coast Food Bank has launched its new $2.4 million fresh food processing plant and fresh produce initiative, the Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative.

The multi-pronged social enterprise program is expected to channel 25 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce from area farms into the hands of food-insecure individuals and children during its inaugural year. It also will generate up to 15 new jobs.

Dignitaries and friends celebrated the launch at the new facility on Thursday with Treasure Coast Food Bank’s board and staff. They honored philanthropist H. William Lichtenberger for his $1.5 million gift and invaluable support for the new initiative.

“This is an eventful day for Treasure Coast Food Bank. It also marks a significant turning point for our community,” Treasure Coast Food Bank President and CEO Judith Cruz said.

“Our fresh food production plant will not only provide food for today but will give our community a steady supply of food for tomorrow. Working together we will nourish bodies, we will nourish economic opportunity by providing new revenue streams to local farmers, new employment opportunities and job training, and fresh, healthy food for people in need.”

Miguel Coty, board chairman of Treasure Coast Food Bank, and Izra Brown, finance director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also shared that the program will benefit not only those in need of food but local farmers as well.

The fresh food processing plant includes both a wash/chop/packaging system to convert whole produce into pre-cut, refrigerated portions and a cook/vacuum-pack system to process raw vegetables into ready-to-use products, such as tomato sauce or sautéed peppers.

The processing plant features wash stations and cool storage rooms, and approximately $1.1 million in equipment, including steam generators, commercial refrigerators and freezers, and two cooking “kettles” which hold a combined 300 gallons of food.

In addition to the Lichtenberger Family Foundation, other supporters of the program are Leo & Peggy Pierce Family Foundation, Florida Community Loan Fund, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Within the next few months, Treasure Coast Food Bank will be delivering locally grown fresh produce and specialty cooked and prepared produce to partner agencies and in the fall to area school systems.