Maine Delegation Calls on USDA to Fix Shortcomings of Food Box Program, Support Maine Farmers and Low-Income Families

Washington, D.C.—Maine’s Congressional Delegation wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to call for improvements to be made to the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which is purchasing up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to distribute to those in need.  No Maine distributors were awarded a contract in the first tranche of funding, and as a result, the program’s benefits to Maine farmers and food pantries have been limited.

 

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden wrote in support of concerns raised by Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal, who requested that the USDA make changes to the program and hold another round of solicitations. 

 

“Maine has a proud farming heritage and a thriving agriculture industry,” the Maine Delegation wrote.  “Our farmers, producers, and distributors are dedicated to helping feed their communities – especially in times of crisis.  As such, many Maine companies desire to participate in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Given timing and other logistical challenges, thus far no Maine distributors have been selected to participate in this program. Furthermore, those distributors who were awarded contracts outside of Maine were only able to provide an extremely limited number of produce boxes to Maine-based partners, due to limited capacity and food safety concerns.”

 

Of the $3 billion allocated for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, only $1.2 billion has been awarded to date, with an additional $1.8 billion expected to be awarded by September 2020. 

 

In an effort to help Mainers reap the benefits of the program, the Maine Delegation urged the USDA to:

 

1)      Reopen the food box bidding process in order to fill the glaring regional gaps that have resulted; and

 

2)      Permit increased flexibility of the design and assembly of boxes, which would enable local partners to participate more easily and allow local food to be distributed across rural communities nationwide, including those in Maine.

 

Click HERE to read the Maine Delegation’s letter.