Though you wouldn't know it from looking at cleared-out supermarket shelves, farmers are dealing with a big food waste problem. With major buyers like hotels and restaurants closed during the COVID-19 crisis, producers have been forced to destroy crops and other perishable items they can't sell. Food banks, meanwhile, are facing increased demand and a shortage of supplies. As CBS News reports, Publix is responding to both issues by purchasing thousands of pounds of produce from farmers and donating it to food banks.

The southeastern U.S. supermarket chain announced on April 22 that it plans to donate 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk to Feeding America over the next week. While there isn't a food shortage in America, the existing supply chain makes it difficult to get surplus food directly to the many people out of work and school who currently need it. As a major grocery chain, Publix is in a position to buy these goods directly from farmers and ensure they don't go to waste. Not only does the initiative fight hunger, but it also supports farmers during a tumultuous time for the industry.

“We are thrilled about Publix’s initiative to buy additional milk from Southeast Milk for processing and donation to Feeding America member food banks,” Joe Wright, the president of Southeast Milk Inc., said in a news release. “It’s a win-win for our farmers who are feeling the impact of decreased demand and the families who are in need of nutrient-rich milk during this pandemic.”

After buying produce from Florida farmers and milk from southeastern dairy farmers, Publix will donate the items to Feeding America branches in the farms' local communities. The initiative, which launched on Wednesday, is expected to last for several weeks.

[h/t CBS News]