Maine distributors were initially left out of the program, but Collins, King, Pingree, and Golden successfully pressed USDA to rectify regional gap in service
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden announced today that Maine Farmers Exchange, a Presque Isle distribution company, was awarded $2,142,080 million to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program. This funding builds on the $1.35 million that was awarded to Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods, a Westbrook distribution company, to also participate in this program.
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program, a component of USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that was established through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act, is supporting farmers with up to $3 billion in purchases of fresh produce, dairy, and meat and distributing these products to low-income Americans in need. No Maine distributors were awarded a contract in the first tranche of funding, however, which has drastically limited the program’s benefits to Maine farmers, anti-hunger organizations, and food insecure families. The Maine Delegation successfully urged USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to rectify the program’s shortcomings.
“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Maine’s families, farmers, and food systems have been serious and are certain to persist for months to come,” said Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden in a joint statement. “We are pleased that a second Maine food distribution company has been provided the opportunity to participate in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. This funding will support Maine farmers and producers who are struggling with decreased demand and disrupted supply chains as well as help to alleviate hunger in our communities.”
“We want to thank Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden for their collaborative and tireless advocacy, which ensured Maine was not left out of CFAP and that we are now fully benefiting from this program," said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. "This opportunity will provide fresh, locally-grown food to Mainers in need during the summer months. The program also provides critical income for Maine growers who are hurting in the wake of the pandemic.”
The Maine Farmers Exchange is partnering with Pineland Farms of Presque Isle and Jordan’s Farm of Cape Elizabeth to compile and distribute boxes featuring all Maine products. Pineland Farms will be contributing raw potatoes, mashed potatoes, milk, and cheese for distribution statewide, while Jordan’s will contribute a variety of fresh produce for boxes distributed to Wayside Food Programs serving Southern Maine.
Combined, these awarded contracts will enable the distribution across Maine of more than 10,000 food boxes per week for eight weeks, totaling more than 1.8 million pounds of food that will be provided directly to Maine families.
On May 29th, the Maine Delegation wrote to Secretary Perdue to urge him to reopen the Food Box bidding process in order to address the program’s regional gaps and permit increased flexibility of the boxes’ design and assembly.
In June, the Maine Delegation again wrote to Secretary Perdue, calling on him to provide interested Maine distributors with another opportunity to apply to participate in the Farmers to Families Food Box program.