USDA announces fourth round of controversial food box program
The Agriculture Department on Friday announced it has authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, set up to help those who need food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
USDA is soliciting vendors for the fourth round from existing providers, and expects to award contracts for deliveries of food boxes from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.
The decision to award contracts only a few days before the presidential election on Nov. 3 is bound to cause controversy. The program has been a favorite of the Trump administration, but congressional Democrats and some nutrition advocates have been critical, saying it is inefficient and not fair to all sections of the country.
“In the fourth round, as in the third round, states have been allocated boxes based on the internal need of the state,” USDA said.
“The program will continue the purchase of combination boxes to include fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products. The program also will continue to require that proposals illustrate how coverage would be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements, and address the ‘last mile’ delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.
“Entities who meet the government’s requirements and specifications will be issued agreements and submit pricing through a competitive acquisition process.”
“I’m gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Farmers to Families Food Box program from families, distributors, food banks, faith-based organizations and nonprofits in communities across the country,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“We recently surpassed 110 million boxes delivered, and millions more are headed to Americans in need,” Perdue said. “I’m very pleased that we are able to extend this program and continue our relief efforts for American farmers and families.”
“Across the country, I have seen firsthand how the Trump administration is fueling millions of American families through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” said presidential adviser Ivanka Trump in a USDA news release.
“President Trump’s commitment to extend this impactful program is ensuring healthy and nutritious produce, dairy and meat will continue to reach our nation’s most vulnerable communities while supporting our farmers.”
The United Fresh Produce Association on Friday notified its members of the announcement.