Keys gets almost 10,000 pounds in meats from Cargill donation

Mike Forster and Mike Rempe pose for a picture after loading eight pallets of meats donated by Cargill’s Miami facility on Wednesday. A total of 10,000 pounds in food donated to Forster’s food drive will go to feed the Keys. CONTRIBUTED

Several local restaurants are stepping up to support the cause by offering meals to those who’ve been affected by closures from the coronavirus. On the mainland, a company that  serves cruise ships with food is pitching in big time to feed the Keys. 

At Mangrove Mike’s Cafe in Islamorada, daily, midday meals for the Upper Keys community continue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., thanks to the many donations from the community. And just recently, Cargill’s Miami facility pitched in to help feed the residents of the Keys through a donation of a whopping 9,888 pounds in meats — a $60,000-80,000 value — to support the continuing meal drive.

How much food is that? Mike Forster, cafe owner who’s running the daily meals outside his restaurant, said the eight pallets of meats, from chicken legs and pork tenderloins to turkey breasts and pork ham bones, is enough to feed the Keys for weeks. 

So who helped make it all happen? His name is Mike Rempe. A former Cargill employee and a friend of Forster’s who lives in Islamorada, Rempe knew the company had a large warehouse that supplies the cruise ship industry. And he knew how supportive they are of charitable organizations. 

He ended up phoning Cargill to see what they were doing with all the meat now that cruise lines shut down. He got a rather quick answer. 

“They put me in touch with the right people, and next thing I know, they gave me a list of meat to come pick up,” Rempe said. “It was a super deal. I told all the guys how they were the stars in this whole deal.”

“Our waitresses and bartenders and servers down here still aren’t making a living and don’t have any income,” he continued. “Mike (Forster) has been generous enough to open up a kitchen. That’s what the Keys are all about.”

Forster and Rempe picked up the pallets of meat items at the Port of Miami on Wednesday. All food donated by Cargill will assist in providing meals to residents not just in the Upper Keys, but also the whole island chain. 

The truck is loaded with eight pallets of meats for shipment to the Keys. CONTRIBUTED

As a board member of the United Way, Forster said it’s easy for him to distribute to local food kitchens and charitable organizations. 

“It’s a great thing how kind people and businesses have been through their donations,” Forster said. “This one from Cargill helps a lot, so now we can concentrate on to-go boxes and produce.”

For more information about the meal drive, visit

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.