Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Scott's Farm Share veto sold out the poor


Mitt Romney's got nothing on Rick Scott.

The morning after winning the Florida presidential primary election, Republican frontrunner Romney volunteered to CNN that he didn't care about poor people.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor,'' Romney said then. "We have a safety net there."

The former Massachusetts governor's apathy toward the truly needy is not exclusive. But Romney, at least for now, can only talk, Florida's governor can act. And he has.

The focus today is on the hungry served by the Florida Farm Share program. You know, the people who might otherwise be helped by a highly regarded safety net.

Scott vetoed a $750,000 appropriation for the program that had been included by legislators in the current state budget. It's first time in two decades Farm Share had not received state assistance and it resulted in the shut down of two food distribution centers.

Here is how the program operates: Using two warehouses, some support staff from the state Department of Agriculture and inmate labor from the Department of Corrections, Farm Share accepts bulk fruit and vegetables that might have an aesthetic imperfection and not be suitable for shipment to retail grocers. Instead of being tossed in a trash bin, the fresh produce is sorted, packed and shipped to 650 food programs serving 610,000 households in all 67 counties. The food is provided free of charge.

Based in South Florida, Farm Share also distributes food directly to 4,000 low-income households of migrant workers, single parents, seniors and the disabled.

Area residents might be more familiar with the program via the hands-on delivery of holiday meals each Christmas season by state legislators. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has been part of the giveaway for 16 years. The fresh produce included potatoes, tomatoes, string beans, squash and okra. There was enough for 500 families. Unfortunately, 650 showed up and the food was gone in three hours.

And, for the first time, the local effort had to pay Farm Share for delivery because the agency had no money for transportation. That's $1,600 that went for gasoline and transit costs instead of for food.

One of the beneficiaries was the Cooper family of west Pasco. They don't meet Romney's definition of the very poor because they are not on public assistance. But Ellen Cooper, 58, and her husband Ron are not working. He is a retired engineer and had worked as a maintenance man at an apartment complex until he was laid off 18 months ago. So their older son, daughter-in-law and four children moved into their Jasmine Lakes house to make sure the bills were covered. To provide a Christmas dinner, they lined up Dec. 16 with the rest of the recipients.

"This is the first time we've ever done something like this. What a wonderful thing this is,'' said Ellen Cooper.

But the wonder didn't end with their own dinner. They froze the extra vegetables. They turned the tomatoes into salsa and jarred it. And they prepared a second holiday meal, drove to Ocala on Christmas evening and shared the food with clients in a residential drug rehabilitation program. It allowed the Coopers to honor the memory of their own son, Ronnie, a recovered addict, who died in September at the age of 31, just two months after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

If you're counting, that is produce that went from farmers' fields to Farm Share's warehouse to Fasano's holiday distribution to the Coopers to recovering addicts' Christmas dinner. It's the type of food chain that is now threatened by Scott's veto and it makes little sense to interrupt the front end of the supply line at the same time the demand on the back side is increasing.

"The only winners in that budget was the garbage dumpsters; they got more fruits and vegetables thrown in them,'' deadpanned Michael Rosenberg of Miami who wrote to legislators asking for restoration of Farm Share's funding.

Farm Share proponents graciously attribute last year's veto to the governor's ignorance, rather than callousness, particularly since the legislature increased the program's appropriation 25 percent to $750,000. Perhaps Scott, amid his frenzy to appease the tea partiers and to claim a record for gubernatorial budget vetoes, didn't understand the value of Farm Share.


Regardless, this is a worthwhile effort to serve the needy. Safety nets don't provide much protection if you fail to secure them properly.


Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17