Latvala father/son team hands out fresh produce to families in need

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Senator Jack Latvala hopped from neighborhood to neighborhood in Pinellas County today handing out fresh produce for free to local citizens in need. This is the twelfth year Latvala has partnered with the group Farm Share to offer help feeding Pinellas families.

Latvala began the day as Oldsmar CARES agency on State Road 580 in Oldsmar. He then headed south to the North Greenwood neighborhood in Clearwater. Senator Latvala’s son, Florida House of Representatives elect Chris Latvala joined the cause this year for his third time.

“There are a lot of people who are down on their luck through no fault of their own,” the younger Latvala said. “Especially through the holidays it’s nice to put a smile on people’s faces because in turn they put a smile on your face.”

People lined up down the street waiting for their share of free produce. Senator Latvala organized annual community food distributions in Pinellas and Pasco beginning in 1994 when he was elected to the Florida Senate. He began partnering with Farm Share in 2010 to serve needy families during the holiday season. Last year his efforts led to 1,200 families receiving much needed fresh and healthy foods for their dinner tables.

Farm Share is a non-profit that connects farmers with surplus produce to social service agencies so that the extra produce doesn’t go to waste and can instead feed families who may otherwise go hungry or be left without nutritious meals. The organization served more than 1.5 million Florida households last year with more than 26 million pounds of food.

Chris Latvala said he had wanted to organize his own event, but because of the campaign for the 2014 election, he decided to just help out his dad. Latvala plans to speak at a holiday charity event later this season to continue the spirit of giving during the holidays.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email