Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine promised closer relationships between state government and nonprofits like Orlando’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, saying the state needs to re-evaluate how such programs are run through the Department of Children and Families.
After touring the Second Harvest Food Bank Friday — the second Democratic gubernatorial candidate to do so, after Gwen Graham did in December, Levine offered few details about his vision to address hunger, homelessness and other chronic social needs but spoke of making them priorities.
“We need to do all these things to lift the state up,” Levine said. “It requires us to have better education, better health care, a better environmental policy, non-discrimination policies.
“And when you come to an organization like this, and you see the opportunity they present if they could just get cooperation and partnership with the state of Florida, to me it’s a golden opportunity. I look at this and say, this to me is an asset of our state, and how do we utilize this asset?”
Levine faces Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for the August 28 Democratic primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Partly through partnerships with big local corporate players such as Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, Second Harvest collects, sorts and distributes food to more than 500 local emergency food assistance programs throughout Central Florida.
After praising the model and vowing his administration would plug into it, Levine pivoted to a discussion of The Florida Department of Children and Families, saying he spoke with a Second Harvest volunteer trainee who had come up through foster care, who said that when he turned 18, he had virtually no support system.
“I think that’s an example of something that needs to change. We saw, unfortunately, that shooter from [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas [High School.] I think he had a similar experience. He [Nikolas Cruz] turned 18 and no one was looking after him, in terms of mental health,” Levine said.
“I think we need to start taking care of our people more, and maybe start modeling ourselves after some of the most admired companies in America who take care of their people very much so, the same organizations we want to attract to our state of Florida, whether it’s Amazon or Boeing, or Disney, whatever it may be, we need to start acting more to take care of our people,” Levine said.