November 24, 2009
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Contact: Public Affairs Office
When a Tampa businessman wrote to Governor Crist in March 2009, he estimated he could keep his staff of 14 employed for about three more weeks before his peanut butter business went under. He felt that if he could sell his peanut butter to the prison system, at less than what they were currently paying, his business could stay afloat. In his email to the Governor, he said he had approached the privatized food vendor with this proposal, but they continued to buy from an out-of-state source.
“We feel as taxpayers in the State of Florida, this is unfair. It will result in the State of Florida losing a good small business that employs a total of 14 people. Please, we need your help. It is only right that a company with the best price, located in the state, paying taxes here and employing people of this state should be able to service the state,” wrote Ernest Turbeville, owner of Sunshine Peanut Company, which is located in Jacksonville.
Turbeville was unaware that in early 2009, the privatized food vendor had relinquished their food services contract with the state and the Department of Corrections (DC) had assumed responsibility for feeding inmates in Florida prisons.
“This is why it’s so advantageous for us to have food services back in house – we can react instantly to situations like this without going through protracted discussion and negotiations with an incumbent contractor,” said DC’s Director of Financial Management Richard Prudom.
Governor Crist, the Department of Corrections, and the Department’s food service supplier (U.S. Foodservice) launched into action in response to Turbeville’s email, scheduling inspections, taste tests, and site visits at his Jacksonville plant. On March 25, 2009, just 22 days after Turbeville sent his email to Governor Crist, an agreement was made to use Sunshine Peanut company’s peanut butter.
But the story doesn’t end there. The Department’s food service provider recently contracted to also buy its apple and grape jelly from Sunshine, which will result in about $34,000 annually in savings to Florida taxpayers, on top of the $200,000 already being saved by purchasing Sunshine’s peanut butter. Turbeville indicated in a recent letter that his company’s relationship with the state has allowed them to not only remain solvent, but to grow.
“Since our last communication, we are pleased to report that, our company has not only been able to maintain operation and employees, but we have added four additional people to our payroll. In addition, we have hired a local consultant who is contracted to work with us one day per week to improve our operation and production,” Turbeville said in an October 30, 2009 email thanking Governor Crist, U.S. Foodservice staff and the Department of Corrections for their help.