USDA to complete fifth round of food purchases with continuation of food boxes
The USDA announced plans to purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food as part of its Farmers to Families Food Box Program on Monday. So far, the department has distributed more than 132 million food boxes in response to 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. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we have helped tens of millions of families and countless farmers with this program,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “President Trump has committed to helping the American people recover and rebuild, and this program helps American families get back on solid ground by ensuring they receive the nutritious food they need during these difficult times.”
Food Box Funding
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.
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 labeling requirements. Precooked seafood products are now eligible for food box inclusion and can be aggregated with precooked 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.
Food Box Background
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; a purchase of $463 million worth of food was 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 had 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 had yet been delivered, or where boxes were being delivered but where there was 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 USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website, with breakdowns by performance period on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program page.