Fifth Round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program Announced


Based on funding included in the COVID-19 relief package passed December 21st, 2020 but delayed in enactment, the USDA will embark on a fifth round of Farmers to Families Food Box distribution. This phase is valued at $1.5 billion in purchases of food from suppliers.  Over 240 organizations previously operating under the Basic Ordering Agreements will be invited to participate with contracts awarded by January 19th and deliveries executed through the end of April.


The basic ordering agreement will be modified to allow inclusion of seafood products that will be eligible for inclusion along with precooked beef, pork, chicken and turkey products and eggs and egg products.  A wide range of cheeses will also be allowed.


The four previous programs representing 132 million boxes were criticized for inefficiency, selectivity and wastage in many areas of the Nation.  The provision of food to needy families could have been effected by simply increasing the allocations under the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program without the cost associated with middleman and cardboard boxes and the inconvenience of having to collect food at distribution centers. Recipients could have obtained their requirements from participating supermarkets and groceries. This would have allowed them the opportunity to choose products that were needed by their families. 


The initial Farmers to Families Food Box Program was developed in response to an immediate need for assistance and the reality that many farmers had excess produce that would otherwise have been wasted.  The program far outgrew its original intent when the White House recognized the potential for political gain from producers, contractors and ultimately recipients.