The Biden Administration has decided to end the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program, which was created at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, was a way to help both producers and food banks feed Americans in need.
As food supply was going to waste due to restaurants and schools closing down, food banks were also in dire need due to the increase in demand. Under the Trump Administration, Farmers to Families Food Box Program was created to solve both issues. Distributors and wholesalers would 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.
However, after reviewing the program, the Biden Administration decided to discontinue it after May, USDA Communications Director Matt Herrick told Reuters.
To date, USDA contractors have delivered 157,152,030 of fresh produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats to disadvantaged Americans across the country. However, those boxes came at a high price. The USDA spent $4 billion on the food box program in 2020 — six times its normal emergency food budget.
Agriculture organizations reiterated that the need is still there to help both producers and those still struggling to provide food during this pandemic.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “AFBF was surprised to learn of Secretary Vilsack’s decision to end the Farmers to Families Food Box program. The pandemic had a devastating effect on farmers, ranchers and families across the country when schools, cafeterias and restaurants shut down. More than 150 million food boxes were produced and helped America’s families suffering from the hardships caused by COVID-19. The need is still there.
“America’s farmers and ranchers feed the world and we believe no one should go hungry. We look forward to continue working with Secretary Vilsack and learn how USDA plans to address the heightened need at food banks while providing a destination for the fresh, healthy food being produced by farm families across the country.”
National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said, “While the Farmers to Families Food Box program was very helpful last year in responding quickly to both last year’s food supply chain disruptions and the dramatic rise in the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it also had its challenges. That’s why we are not surprised by the decision to move beyond the food box program, and in fact, expected it.
“The important focus now is addressing the twin needs of assisting food insecure families and aiding food supply chains like dairy that are still dealing with the effects of reduced foodservice demand. We support USDA’s efforts to use multiple programs, including TEFAP, Section 32, the new dairy donation program and other efforts to purchase dairy products, produce, meat and other products for distribution through food banks and other charitable organizations in the most efficient and effective ways. This will help farmers do what they do best: Serve people who benefit from the nutrition they provide.”
Reuters also reported the Biden Administration does not plan on replacing the program.