New freeze worries Bradenton agriculture, food banks

MANATEE — January's protracted cold snap and the return of frigid temperatures this week have turned Manatee's agricultural community into a grumpy group.

Just ask John Cucci, general manager of C&D Fruit and Vegetable Company.

If you dare.

"It's just been ridiculous," Cucci said when asked about the condition of his crops. "There are a lot of people not in very good moods. You might get some people hanging up on you."

Seeing and hearing farmers in despair gives those who count on their bounty reason for alarm.

Chief among them are social service agencies who help feed the hungry. The county's leading food distributor has begun to worry about the collateral fallout of the freeze.

The local agricultural community contributes as much as 100,000 pounds of produce per month to the Food Bank of Manatee. The donations are the lone source of fresh produce for some clients of the food bank and its more than 100 affiliated agencies, including the Salvation Army and Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.

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