The Palm Beach County Food Bank faces the loss of its food permit after a state inspector twice found “a heavy accumulation of rat excreta” at the nonprofit’s facility in Lantana in late January. In September 2019, an inspector repeated found mice droppings.

The Palm Beach County Food Bank faces the loss of its food permit after a state inspector twice found overwhelming evidence of a rat infestation at the nonprofit’s facility in Lantana.

An inspector from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services visited the Palm Beach County Food Bank on Jan. 24 and Jan. 31. In both cases, the inspector reported, the facility was overrun by rodents.

“A heavy accumulation of rat excreta too numerous to count were observed on the floor, pallets, chairs, metal lifts and metal shelves in the main dry good storage warehouse,” the Jan. 31 report said.

The inspector also saw rat feces in a walk-in refrigerator. During the Jan. 24 visit, rat droppings littered the staff kitchen.

The infestation isn’t a new challenge for the Palm Beach County Food Bank, which stores its food at 525 Gator Lane in Lantana.

The organization twice was cited in September for “a heavy accumulation of mice excreta.” In October, a state inspector visited again and declared that infestation over.

Karen Erren, the Food Bank’s executive director, said she’s trying to fix the problem. The nonprofit switched exterminators last year and also hired a manager focused on ridding the facility of rats.

“We agree that this is unacceptable,” Erren said in an interview Monday. “The focus is on eradicating the problem.”

Erren blamed the age of the nonprofit’s facility. According to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser, the warehouse at 525 Gator Lane was built in 1983.

“These older buildings have multiple points of entry,” Erren said. “It’s a challenging facility.”

The Palm Beach County Food Bank aims to move to a new facility in Lake Worth, Erren said. The organization has raised about half of the $3 million it needs to relocate to newer digs.

The organization reported revenue of $10 million for the year ending mid-2018, according to its tax return. A larger food bank, Feeding South Florida of Pembroke Park, operates a food warehouse in Boynton Beach.

The repeated infestations at Palm Beach County Food Bank raise uncomfortable questions about the quality of the food the organization donates to poor people.

The United Way of Palm Beach County says its Food4Our Kids partnership with Palm Beach County Food Bank provides “nutritious food packs to grade K-8 children and families in food-insecure households throughout Palm Beach County.”

The United Way paid $325,124 to Palm Beach County Food Bank in the year that ended in mid-2018, according to the United Way’s latest tax return.

jostrowski@pbpost.com

@bio561



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