On May 8, USDA said it approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
“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 nonprofit 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.”
A full list of approved suppliers will be posted on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program website at 5 p.m. ET, May 8, 2020. Approved suppliers may increase the number of nonprofit organizations or government entities (e.g., school food authority, Indian tribe) to which they will provide boxes within their service area, USDA said, but must ensure the nonprofit has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
In an email to International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) members, Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA's president and CEO, said the association applauds USDA for moving quickly on the program.
“Not only will this effort purchase roughly $3 billion in food from American producers and processors and get it to people in need across our country, but the program also will establish a new paradigm for building partnerships among the public, private and nonprofit sectors to respond to food insecurity,” he said. “It is truly a win-win-win.”
On April 17, 2020, Secretary Perdue announced the program as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed to help farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.
Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with national, regional and local suppliers whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other foodservice businesses to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products, USDA said.
Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent on program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion, USDA said.
Additional information about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program is available on the AMS website at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/farmers-to-families-food-box.