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USDA to Discontinue Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Photo: Food Bank Council of Michigan

The Farmers to Families Food Box program will not continue during the Biden administration, with the USDA aiming to replace it.

Launched in 2020 under the Trump administration, the Farmers to Families Food Box program sought to feed disadvantaged Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including students dependent on school meals, senior citizens, and laid-off workers.

However, problems with food waste, high administrative costs, and distribution hiccups spurred new direction by USDA personnel to change things up, including an added focus on funding to commodity purchase programs.

“We’re overwhelmed,” said Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

The organization increased food distributions by 46% over the last year, with 50% of donated food coming from the USDA via trade mitigation or Farmers to Families food boxes.

“They’re discontinuing this program because of some of the difficulties they ran into, but they’re not walking away from the need,” said Knight. “I’m confident that they’re going to be able to do something.”

USDA contractors delivered 157,152,030 of fresh produce, milk, dairy, and cooked meats through the food boxes. They spent $4 billion on the food box program in 2020.

According to John Kran, national legislative counsel for Michigan Farm Bureau, it’s not uncommon for a new administration to take a new look at existing programs and make tweaks.

“USDA recently solicited feedback from the public on the program overall and has decided to make some modifications,” Kran said. “We look forward to working with the USDA on the next steps as they continue getting food into the hands of those in need as well as assisting farmers in navigating the supply chain uncertainties caused by COVID-19.”