The Education Fund, Ford Motors’ self-driving cars deliver for kids

Education By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Here’s one way to get your child to eat her veggies: Have a car that drives itself deliver produce to your home.

Miami Lakes non-profit The Education Fund partnered with Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, the Ford Motor Company Fund and Argo AI’s self-driving technology for eight weeks beginning in October.

During the partnership, Ford Fusion hybrid self-driving sedans delivered nearly 500 bags of produce from The Education Fund’s Food Forest for Schools project to students in 50 homes.

The deliveries kept kids safely at home during the coronavirus pandemic but ensured they still received nutritious greens and school supplies.

Elobie James and her husband Ervin Hernandez live in the Little Havana neighborhood with their two sons and daughter.  The boys attend Riverside Elementary, which along with Fienberg-Fisher K-8 in Miami Beach participated in the test program.

The kids would see Ford’s blue and white car with a deck of equipment on the roof pull up to their apartment building each Wednesday afternoon.  A technician was inside the Fusion in case of an emergency, but the car drove itself.

“It was pretty cool and scary at the same time,” said Elobie James, who was intrigued and is a bit wary of artificial intelligence. “It shows we are evolving.”

One week the car delivered lemongrass and oregano as well as masks and a pamphlet that described the greens.

Past packages have included pencils, notebooks and T-shirts, James said. She used the lemongrass in a brine for her Thanksgiving turkey.

“I can incorporate the greens in the cooking so they don’t even know they’re getting their veggies,” James
 said of a 
benefit of 
the Food 
Forest
 program, 
where 100
 varieties of organic plants may be grown at 51 participating schools.

The Education Fund said it has provided nearly $3 million in materials and produce during the pandemic, benefitting families, 60 schools and 1,500 teachers.

The Graham Companies is a supporter of The Education Fund, as is the Ford Motor Company Fund, which said it has donated and raised $72,000 toward distribution of the school supplies this year.

Ford has also been a longtime supporter of the Food Forest for Schools project in Miami-Dade County, said Eddie Recinos, the Food Forest program director.

“It was almost like a perfect partnership, we’re both cutting edge programs,” Recinos said. “The Food Forest program uses schools as outdoor eco- labs.

“And Ford and Argo AI are testing the automated vehicles,” Recinos said. “We do see this as the future. We learned there is definitely a need for this.”

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