Pandemic rages, but USDA’s food box program may end in eight weeks

As it announced contracts for up to $1.47 billion to carry the Farmers to Families Food Box initiative through July and August, the USDA also said the program could end on Sept. 1, or soon afterward, as funding for the food giveaway program runs out. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has highlighted the Food Box as a boon to hungry Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, while the White House opposed a temporary expansion of food-stamp benefits.(No paywall)

Report: Covid-19 to worsen food insecurity around globe

The worldwide fight against the coronavirus pandemic will reduce income in countries where food insecurity is already high, leading to increased demand for food aid, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a quarterly report. "While agricultural production has been comparatively unaffected and supplies of staple foods are reported to be generally ample or stable, income losses due to the measures implemented to contain the spread of the disease and the overall economic downturn are likely to increase the severity and prevalence of food insecurity," said the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.(No paywall)

USDA offers few yardsticks for measuring its food-box program

For USDA, the most important number in its food-box giveaway program is how many boxes are donated — 18.4 million as of Friday, according to a tally on the homepage of the agency that runs the program. Officials declined to provide other details, such as the average cost of the boxes or how long the $3-billion initiative will be in operation.(No paywall)

SNAP rolls rose as coronavirus spread across U.S.

Food stamp enrollment climbed by 479,000 people, or 1.3 percent, in March, in the early days of combating the novel coronavirus and the economic slowdown that accompanied it, said the USDA. Experts have said the pandemic could result in the highest SNAP participation ever, topping the record of 47.6 million during fiscal 2013 during the slow recovery from the Great Recession.(No paywall)

Survey: Unrelenting food insecurity during pandemic

One in five US households say they often or sometimes run out of food, a persistently elevated level of food insecurity as the nation faces its fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Covid Impact Survey. "Despite some public benefits in place, this is still very high," said Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, which launched the survey.(No paywall)

House votes to double coronavirus payments to agriculture

Senate Republicans will ignore the "unserious" $3-trillion coronavirus relief bill passed along party lines by the House in favor of steps such as liability shields for employers, said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House bill included $16.5 billion for cash payments to farmers and ranchers, double the amount in the package now awaiting approval by the White House budget office.(No paywall)

Perdue joins coronavirus task force

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, chosen by President Trump to oversee the reopening of meat plants, is now a member of the White House coronavirus task force, "which is focused on getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to reopen," said the White House. The appointment was announced a few hours after Perdue and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump visited a produce warehouse in the Washington suburbs that is part of the Farmers to Families Food Box on Friday.(No paywall)

Two major meat processors part of USDA’s $1.2-billion Food Box program

Two of the largest meat processors in the country, Tyson Foods and Cargill Meat Solutions, are among roughly 200 "approved suppliers" for a USDA initiative to buy surplus fresh produce, dairy products and pre-cooked chicken and pork for distribution to needy Americans. The USDA said it approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box program but did not list individual awards.(No paywall)

UN agency warns action needed to prevent ‘food crisis’

The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development committed $40 million to support farmers and rural communities in producing food during the coronavirus pandemic. "We need to act now to stop this health crisis transforming into a food crisis," said IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo. IFAD hopes to raise an additional $200 million from UN members, foundations and the private sector. (No paywall)

Hunger relief will come in the form of the ‘harvest box’

The government will spend $300 million a month to buy fresh produce, dairy and meat products that will be packaged into a box for food banks and other charities to give to hungry Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Some $3 billion will be spent on purchases of surplus foods for donation in an initiative that resembles the "America's Harvest Box" idea promoted by Perdue for delivering a portion of SNAP benefits.(No paywall)