The first deliveries of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box, a coronavirus relief initiative to move surplus commodities to food banks from U.S. farms, are expected in mid-May, said Agricultural Marketing Service officials on Wednesday. The agency is “looking for a truck to (car) trunk” system to deliver food speedily, with minimal labor or storage demands on the nonprofit groups distributing food assistance to needy Americans.
“We plan to award contracts by May 10 and have deliveries begin immediately,” said David Tuckwiller, AMS deputy administrator for commodity procurement. The deadline for proposals to supply commodity boxes to nonprofit organizations is Friday. Tuckwiller and Christopher Purdy, associate deputy administrator, took part in a webinar for farmers, shippers, and other suppliers interested in submitting proposals.
The USDA, which says it will spend up to $3 billion on the food boxes, plans to spend $300 million a month for several months. Purchases will be divided equally among fresh produce, dairy products, and pre-cooked chicken and pork products. Distributors and wholesalers will provide pre-approved boxes of food to nonprofit organizations that include food banks and community and faith-based groups. The distributors are responsible for finding nonprofit recipients for the boxes.
Foods can be packaged in a variety of ways: a fresh fruit and vegetable box, a dairy products box, a meat box, a combination box with a mixture of goods, and a box containing milk.
The USDA website for the Farmers to Families Food Box, including a fact sheet, is available here.