Facility will house food for people in need
“If we build it, they will come.”
That’s what Sunny Mulford, co-founder and director of Epic-Cure Putnam County, is counting on when the doors of its 100% volunteer-manned food warehouse in Palatka open.
“Our mission is to take urgent, immediate and continuous action to end food waste and fight hunger,” she said.
Food banks throughout Putnam County will have access to the warehouse when it opens.
The idea for Epic-Cure Putnam came about after Mulford and her husband, who live in St. Augustine, were dining with friends and the topic of sustainability was mentioned.
“One of our friends asked me if I had ever seen the documentary ‘Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,’” she said. “I had not.”
Two weeks later, Mulford watched the documentary while on a plane en route to visit her daughter in Arizona.
“I watched it and it changed my life,” she said. “I made my daughter and husband watch it. We decided to form our nonprofit organization and that we were going to work it like a job.”
That job included forming Epic-Cure in December 2018, receiving nonprofit status in February 2019 and finding a warehouse in St. Augustine. The organization is opening its second warehouse in Palatka with a food distribution May 22.
Plans include installing refrigeration and shelves at the Palatka warehouse, which is owned by Beck Automotive Group.
Volunteers are needed for a community cleanup day Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at the 15,000-square-foot building at 389 N. U.S. 17 in Palatka. The Palatka Housing Authority joined forces with Mulford and plans to provide needed improvements to the warehouse. The group also is receiving support from 1 Putnam.
Plans haven’t been determined for days the warehouse will be open. Contact information and hours of operation will be provided at a later date.
Food for the warehouse will come from food rescues from grocery stores in St. Johns County and eventually, Putnam, as well as Feeding Northeast Florida, which gets food from stores and distributors in nine counties. Other food sources include the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other independent distributors.
“Usually, it’s items that are not selling or overstocked, as well as broken packages,” Mulford said. “Our purpose is to process rescued food and to support food pantries and food service programs and soup kitchens. We’re also going to distribute food to people in need.”
According to Mulford, the amount of food wasted each year in the U.S. is staggering.
“Thirty to 40% of everything we produce in the U.S. ends up at the landfill,” she said. “Epic-Cure is an important project because it helps the environment by keeping food from ending up at landfills, which creates greenhouse gases. It also helps us because we are able to give the food to those in need to fight hunger. It’s a win-win.”
Palatka resident Ed Killebrew helps with food banks in the area and said it’s been a vision of local organizations to have a warehouse with refrigeration that could provide food for everyone in need.
“This warehouse is going to give us the ability to get fresh fruits, meats and milk into town from Feeding Northeast Florida in Jacksonville and from local grocery stores and have a refrigerated space to store it,” he said. “This is going to be a huge impact on food-dependent residents.”
Feeding Northeast Florida has been providing prepared meals for Putnam senior citizens for the past four weeks as part of the Epic-Cure program. To date, 14,000 meals have been distributed locally.
Plans for the warehouse include a 10-foot-by-20-foot walk-in refrigerator, courtesy of a grant from Feeding Northeast Florida. Another grant is in the works from the Community Foundation for a 40-foot-by-40-foot walk-in refrigerator.
“Our goal is to process 250,000 pounds of food a month,” Mulford said. “We always knew there was a need in Putnam, but we had to get everything up and running in St. Augustine. We’ve always had Putnam County in our sites.”
Donations are needed for the organization and can be made at epic-cure.org or made out to Epic-Cure, 2745 Industry Center Road, Unit 1, St. Augustine, FL 32084.