'Whatever the farmers have': Crop Drop Destin ready to distribute 80,000 pounds of produce
Thousands of pounds of potatoes, fruits and more are being trucked in from Georgia and South Florida as part of 14th annual Crop Drop on Saturday at Destin High School.
And the event is just what it sounds like: Produce is "dropped" and then bagged and sent out to help feed people.
"It looks like we're going to have 80,000 pounds of produce again," said Karen DeBord, who heads up Crop Drop Destin.
The produce is being delivered on three semi-trucks and will be picked up by 38 agencies that will take bags and boxes of food back to their facilities to distribute to those in need.
Last year, only 23 agencies participated because of COVID concerns, DeBord said.
"But more are wanting to participate this year, which is good," she said.
"People are coming from Milton, Pensacola, Navarre, Panama City … all over the Panhandle actually, to distribute to their families in need," DeBord said.
Some of the groups that will be picking up food include the Baptist Church in Mossy Head, Caring and Sharing, Catholic Charities, Wagons with Provisions, Fisherman's Coop and a Masonic Lodge.
"It's not just agencies. It's people who give food to food-insecure people," she said.
The food being trucked in is coming from nine farmers in Georgia and Florida.
The cost for freight and fuel is about $10,000 and DeBord said they are about $4,000 short. Donations can be made at cropdrop.net/support.
As for the produce, DeBord said they are expecting boxes of mixed fruit and vegetables such as onions, green onions, cucumbers and sweet potatoes.
"Hopefully, we're getting apples and oranges," she said.
"Whatever the farmers have that they have left over, they'll put on the semis and bring it over," she said.
"Sometimes we know ahead of time and sometimes we're surprised," she said.
Crop Drop takes place the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year.
"We do this before Thanksgiving so they'll at least have some fresh produce," DeBord said, instead of the boxed potatoes or canned foods.
"This is the one time throughout the year they'll get fresh produce from agencies. They really look forward to it," she said.
DeBord said they have some big deliveries going out early. A thousand pounds of produce will be taken to South Walton, and The Gathering, a church in Fort Walton Beach, will be feeding 400 families, so they are getting about 850 bags of produce.
Destin High, host site for the event, has been busy helping to prepare.
Students from the leadership classes, Fellowship of Christian Athletes as well as the Futures Business Leaders of America have been working countless hours the last couple of weeks to prepare all the thousands of mesh bags ahead of the packing and distribution on Saturday, according to Kelly Tucker, who is heading things up at the high school.
"Destin High is also hosting the volunteer hospitality tent and staging area to serve all the student and community volunteers that come out to participate," Tucker said.
The school is looking for volunteers to help with distribution, registration, food and beverage stations and parking.
"We are also seeking donations to feed and hydrate the hundreds of volunteers that will be onsite," Tucker said. They are collecting pre-packaged snacks like granola bars and chips as well as bottled waters and juice boxes.
Although the project is based in Destin, DeBord said it's more than just a Destin project.
"We've got people from Crestview and Fort Walton. ... I don't know if they even know that this food is coming their way," she said.
Plus, people come from everywhere to help bag.
As of Tuesday, they had 150 people signed up to help bag up food, but more is needed. Last year they had more than 300 people bagging food.
People can come, sign in and register to help the day of the event. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. and trucks start picking up about 8:45 a.m. and go until noon.