On May 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. At least 10 Michigan suppliers were selected by USDA to help support the program, including Atlas Wholesale Food Company, Clemens Food Group, Coveyou Farms LLC, Del Bene Produce Inc., Eastern Market Corporation, Gordon Food Service, Heeren LLC (Michigan Fresh), LaGrasso Bros., Prairie Farms Dairy, and Van Eerden Foodservice.
Through the program, USDA will contract with distributors and wholesalers who will 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. The program is expected to begin distributing surplus food to communities within days.
Several Michigan products will be included in the boxes, including apples, asparagus, bell peppers, blueberries, bratwurst, cabbage, carrots, celery, cheese, concord grapes, cucumbers, fall squash, onions, peaches, potatoes, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini.
“This is really great news,” said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Not only will these contracts help the awardees, but they’ll also help Michigan farmers—and, most importantly, they’ll help get fresh, nutritious food to individuals and families who really need it during this crisis. Michigan is proud to help support this vital program, and we thank USDA for recognizing the quality and capability of Michigan’s food and agriculture industry in this way.”
“The seven members of the Food Bank Council of Michigan are distributing 40 percent more food during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “We understand that solving hunger, whether in a pandemic or not, starts in the field. FBCM is thankful for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program being stood up in such a short amount of time that benefits our farmers and ranchers—this product will help fill the food gap and take hunger off the table for many of our Michigan families who are struggling during this time.”
“The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program’s pre-packed boxes will help expand distribution of nutritious food to students and families across Michigan,” said Diane Golzynski, Director of the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Health and Nutrition Services. “These boxes are a great addition for families supported by student meals and household distribution programs.”
“LaGrasso Bros. is thankful for this perfectly timed program with USDA,” said LaGrasso Bros. President Tom Lagrasso III. “The USDA Farm to Family Food Box Program is critically important to helping great American farmers, distribution companies, such as LaGrasso Bros., and the families that are economically impacted by the COVID pandemic. LaGrasso Bros. hopes that we can do our part in helping the Michigan economy, Michigan families, and Michigan farmers with this amazing program.”
Additional information about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including a complete list of companies receiving a contract from USDA, is available on the AMS website at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/farmers-to-families-food-box.
On April 17, 2020, USDA announced the Farmers to Families Food Box 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 food service 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. 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. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.