Feeding South Florida filed a written protest earlier this year challenging that decision, arguing Farm Share misrepresented its ability to live up to the deal during the RFP bidding process. After pressuring the Agriculture Department, the agency — led by Commissioner Nikki Fried, a 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate — agreed to review its decision. That review has now wrapped, with Fried’s agency sticking with its original decision.
“Farm Share has been, and always will be, committed to providing free, life-sustaining food to Floridians facing food insecurity,” Farm Share CEO Stephen Shelley said in response to the final decision.
“We are thankful that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has affirmed its decision to award Farm Share multiple regional contracts to administer The Emergency Food Assistance Program, including in Broward County. Following a thorough evaluation process by five impartial and knowledgeable experts, the department’s scoring of applications correctly concluded that Farm Share is the best food bank to administer the program in the awarded regions and properly determined that Farm Share has the expertise, resources, and experience to do so successfully.”
The decision could have political fallout in the region. Feeding South Florida has significant political support in the region. In April, Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich told Florida Politics she joined Feeding South Florida to push for a review.
“It appears that (Feeding South Florida) did answer questions and included information, for which they did not receive credit,” Rich said. “My primary goal here is to make sure that we have a contract with an organization that can best meet the needs of Broward County. And to my way of thinking, that would be Feeding South Florida.”
Fried’s agency disagreed. That could ruffle feathers among some South Florida Democrats as Fried seeks that party’s 2022 nomination in the Governor’s race.
Shelley says his organization is more than ready to take over the contract.
“With this final resolution, Farm Share can now move forward with preparations to begin serving the food-insecure people in the awarded regions when our contracts begin in October,” Shelley said.
“Farm Share will continue to focus on our mission that no person goes hungry and no food goes to waste and looks forward to collaboratively working with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to feed food-insecure Floridians.”