Treasure Coast Food Bank resumes Food for Thought Tours
Community leaders get up-close look at state-of-the art
Food Production Kitchen
Judith Cruz explains how the cooking kettles are used at the Food Production Kitchen.
Treasure Coast Food Bank relaunched its popular Food for Thought tour last month, hosting community leaders from St. Lucie County for a tour of its Food Production Kitchen.
The group got an up-close look at how the state-of-the-art operation converts fresh produce into thousands of meals, a collaboration that supports area farmers and growers while providing nutritious food to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. The tour included lunch prepared by students in Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Culinary Training Academy.
The 10,000-square-foot Food Production Kitchen is housed in Treasure Coast Food Bank’s former distribution center in northern St. Lucie County, and is the heart of an extensive collaborative program. It benefits area growers by providing them an additional outlet to sell produce and ensures that nutritious produce is available to the one-in-four individuals on the Treasure Coast who don’t always have access to nutritious food. It also serves as a training outlet for students in Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Culinary Training Program.
“This small building used to be our entire food bank,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank as she led the tour. “But the landscape has changed since then. Now we have the opportunity to support farmers and growers while providing meals to children and seniors and others in need of food.”
The group learned how the production kitchen can convert whole produce into pre-cut, refrigerated portions through its wash/chop/packaging system, enabling fresh, nutritious produce to go from fields to household refrigerators in a matter of days. During a crisis, the production kitchen can turn out 100,000 prepared meals, complete with lean protein, each day.
“Everything was designed to be multi-functional. We can reconfigure this equipment for meal prep for cold meals for students and seniors,” Cruz said, explaining how Treasure Coast Food Bank prepares meals for St. Lucie County’s schools and for the Summer Meals programs.
The group also learned how the operation’s two programmable cooking kettles can turn vegetables and other ingredients into 300 gallons of ready-to-eat food in a matter of hours.
The Food Production Kitchen played a major role in feeding people throughout the state much of last year during the COVID-19 shutdown. Using its two large-capacity cooking kettles, Treasure Coast Food Bank took in thousands of pounds of produce and converted them to vegetable soup that was distributed to people in need throughout Florida. At full operation, the Food Production Kitchen can process more than 25 million pounds of fresh produce each year.
“Rather than let that produce go to waste, we made thousands of gallons of vegetable soup,” Cruz said. “What we do every day is package food,” she added. “We package it in cases, in Cryovacs, and in gallon bags, and it goes out in a variety of ways to those in need. Hunger never sleeps, and neither do we.”
Food for Thought Tours will be held on the last Friday of each month. For more information or to sign up for a tour, visit stophunger.org.