U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food for nationwide distribution through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In total, USDA has distributed more than 132 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This new round of Farmers to Families Food Boxes will go a long way in helping American families access nutritious and healthy meals as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," Purdue said. "We have helped tens of millions of families and countless farmers with this program, helping the American people get back on solid ground by ensuring they receive the nutritious food they need during these difficult times.”
The additional funding for the program was included in the COVID-19 relief package as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed December 21, 2020. In this fifth round of purchases, USDA will again purchase combination boxes to ensure all involved recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products, and seafood products will also be included in this round.
The solicitation will be issued to over 240 organizations that have previously received Basic Ordering Agreements (BOA). Solicitations to existing BOA holders are expected to be issued by the end of the week, with contract awards expected to be made by January 19. Deliveries will begin shortly after awards are issued and continue through the end of April. Additional BOA proposals will not be reviewed nor accepted at this time. A complete list of BOA holders can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/RoundFourBOAHolders.pdf (PDF, 180 KB).
An amendment to the BOA will be issued to clarify the amount of acceptable processed meat products, to include seafood products and to clarify certain labelling requirements. Pre-cooked seafood products are now eligible for food box inclusion and can be aggregated with pre-cooked meat (beef, pork, chicken and turkey) products and egg or egg products to meet the existing material description weight requirements. In addition, USDA has emphasized that other hard, semi-firm or semi-soft cheese, for example, Blue, Brick, Colby, Edam, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Monterey, Muenster, Parmesan, Provolone and Romano are acceptable in addition to cheddar and other cheeses specified in the solicitation.
The Farmers to Families Food Box program is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Using authority provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, USDA partnered with national, regional and local distributors, whose workforces were significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase and distribute agricultural products to Americans in need.
The fourth round of the program was announced on Oct. 23, 2020, and purchased a total of $463 million worth of food delivered between Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. The fourth round was funded by an additional $500 million made available through supplemental appropriations provided to the Secretary in the CARES Act.
The third round of the Farmers to Families Food Box program was announced July 24, 2020, and the President announced on Aug. 24, 2020, that up to an additional $1 billion was being made available for deliveries through Oct. 31, 2020. USDA announced contracts for the third round on Sept. 17, 2020. By the end of the third round on Oct. 31, USDA purchased more than $3.566 billion worth of food.
In the second round of purchasing and distribution, which began July 1 and concluded Sep. 18, 2020, USDA purchased more than $1.781 billion of food through extended contracts of select vendors from the first round of the program as well as new contracts focused on Opportunity Zones in order to direct food to reach underserved areas, places where either no boxes have yet been delivered, or where boxes are being delivered but where there is additional need.
The first round of purchases occurred from May 15 through June 30, 2020 and saw more than 35.5 million boxes delivered in the first 45 days.
Updates to the number of food boxes verified as delivered will continue to be displayed on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website, with breakdowns by performance period on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program page.