The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
Agricultural Marketing Service’s Commodity Procurement Program will procure an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.
“This is a new, innovative approach to provide critical support to American farmers and families, and USDA moved as expeditiously as federal procurement rules allow to stand up the program and solicit offers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We were pleased to see the abundance of interest from both food distributors and non-profit organizations. Within days, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will begin distributing surplus food, while safeguarding food safety techniques, to communities across the country where it’s needed most.”
The funding far exceeds the $100 million per month the department initially planned for the program, due to high interest and need. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy, $258 million in meat and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America sent a letter to the USDA requesting a nimble approach to quickly and effectively get food from America’s farms to the nation’s food banks and others addressing food insecurity.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “We applaud the USDA for its quick action and flexibility in finding a way to get food from America’s farms to the dinner tables of those who need it most. These food purchases will help the hungry while providing income to farmers and ranchers who have seen some markets for their food disappear during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The American Farm Bureau and Feeding America were among the first to call for a quick solution that links farmers with the nation’s food banks. USDA’s responsiveness and the early success of the food box program give hope to those in need and to farmers who have food ready to be harvested.”
A full list of approved suppliers has been posted on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program website. Approved suppliers may increase the number of non-profit organizations or Government entities (e.g., school food authority, Indian tribe) they will provide boxes to within their service area but must ensure the non-profit has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.