USDA Announces Suppliers in New Farmers to Families Food Box Program, United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association Comment
- by Anne Allen
WASHINGTON, DC - In a monumental move, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchased $461 million in fresh produce through its new Farmers to Families Food Box Program. This latest program intends to source produce that will then be pre-packed and given to those facing food insecurity.
In response to this purchase, both United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association (PMA) issued statements regarding the program’s impact on the industry.
“At a time of extreme hardship to the fresh produce supply chain and unprecedented needs of food insecure Americans, we appreciate USDA’s efforts to work with the industry to identify creative solutions—using the industry’s existing skill sets—to get fresh produce to those in need,” United Fresh remarked in a statement sent to the industry. “[…] Given the speed in which this program was awarded and implemented, we anticipate there will be bumps in the road. But, we also know that the industry and our communities have proven their abilities to rise to solve challenges and this will be no different."
United Fresh’s President and CEO, Tom Stenzel, addressed several of these challenges and concerns in a follow-up letter to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Department and the Agricultural Marketing Service in establishing the Farmers to Families Food Box Program to address challenges that have arisen related to the emergency declaration around COVID-19. We also appreciated the speed with which AMS solicited and awarded bids for the program. And, we are thrilled that hundreds of millions of dollars of fresh produce will now be on their way to Americans in need. However, the announcement of the awards on Friday night has brought many questions from our members that need to be addressed. This is not 'sour grapes' from those that may not have been awarded; this is a genuine effort to ensure integrity and confidence in the program and that fresh produce actually gets to those in need in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
The letter, linked here, asks several questions regarding the list of applicants, payments, and more.
Richard Owen, PMA’s Vice President of Global Membership and Engagement, also took to the newswire to express his thoughts regarding the program.
“While PMA applauds the quick implementation of this new program, we would like to see additional funding be made available by USDA to expand the number of distributors and citizens the initiative is able to reach. Food insecurity did not begin with the global pandemic and will not end with it, either. The Farmer to Families Food Box Program is a great step towards creating a blueprint for the infrastructure needed for our industry to play a crucial part in getting our fresh, healthy products to those who need it most. PMA will continue to support programs like the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and the Fresh Food Fund, which provides a long-term, sustainable model for our industry to provide surplus product to food banks and community centers in at-risk communities."
The list of selected suppliers can be found here.
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