Column | Fresh food from America’s farms help families
These past few months have been difficult for many Americans, both economically and emotionally. The coronavirus has impacted the way we lead our daily lives, and that includes how we eat. With many restaurants, hotels and schools closed, the food supply chain has had to adapt in order to bring to market the food we need to live. We used to eat over half of our meals out of the house – that has changed dramatically in the past few months. This has caused some disruptions similar to when there’s an accident on a four-lane highway and cars are forced to drive through two lanes – the result is a traffic jam. The same thing happened with the food supply chain, and we are working fast to ensure the food our farmers produced goes to Americans in need.
At the direction of President Trump, USDA built from the ground up an innovative new program called the Farmers to Families Food Box. This $3 billion program is supporting America’s farmers and producers by partnering with distributors to buy food that would otherwise go uneaten and distribute it to families and people who need food. It’s been just a few weeks, and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program has already begun distributing safe, wholesome and nutritious food to communities across the country where it’s needed most.
On May 8, 2020, USDA approved 198 contracts totaling over $1.2 billion to support American producers and communities in need through the program. These companies will source surplus food from farmers, producers and ranchers across the country. Over 550 proposals were received for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, many of whom are small businesses and those that will support local and regional farmers, in order to have the greatest positive impact on American communities.
These businesses right now are purchasing quality food from farmers who normally sell to restaurants: $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.
After purchasing the food, the businesses package it into family-sized boxes with fresh produce, dairy and meat products, and transport these boxes across America – to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits that serve American families.
Arizona has distributors committed to purchase and deliver $16.3 million worth of food boxes across the region to non-profit partners who will distribute them to local families in need. This is only the beginning of this important work.
This new, innovative approach to provide critical support to American farmers and families is the best that America has to offer – pulling together healthy, nutritious food produced by American farmers, being boxed up and put together by American companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and then distributed to those in need. It truly is an example of Americans helping Americans, and something we should all be proud of. I truly believe America’s best days are ahead, and programs like this will put Americans on stable footing and enable them to take full advantage of our great American economic resurgence in the coming months.
(Sonny Perdue is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)