Producers challenged with surplus commodities at a time when individuals are in desperate need of food assistance
FARGO, N.D. – The Great Plains Food Bank has begun distributing food entering its service area through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families (F2F) Food Box Program. The program is a part of the federal government’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act as a way to support farmers struggling with surplus food product, regional and local food distributors impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service entities, and hungry people impacted by COVID-19. The USDA has allocated up to $3 billion to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat from farmers that the USDA will help distribute to those in need through the Great Plains Food Bank and other nonprofits.
“At a time when our clientele is increasing and we have a dire need for food, it’s disheartening to see stories of farmers leaving product in the fields or being forced to dump their excess milk. The Farmers to Families Food Box Program really is a win-win-win; for the farmers, distributors, and for our hungry neighbors,” Great Plains Food Bank President Melissa Sobolik said. “Our work is centered on logistics and being certain that we serve these high quality food items to those in need efficiently and safely. This program goes so far to eliminating some of that loss and getting it into the hands of those most hurt by this pandemic.”
USDA awarded contracts equaling $1.2 billion from May 15 to June 30, 2020, to contracted suppliers who create family-sized boxes of fresh produce, dairy and meat items. These boxes are transported to a location determined by the partnering food bank/nonprofit. The Great Plains Food Bank is partnering with contracted suppliers to distribute truckloads of fresh produce through a series of distributions throughout the state, Clay County, Minn., and all five of the state’s tribal reservations. USDA may elect to extend the timeframe of the program and contracts.
Distributions of fresh produce are happening throughout this week with distributions in Belcourt, Bismarck, Mandan, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate reservation, Devils Lake, Grand Forks and Fargo. Throughout the month of June, eight to nine semi-trucks of produce will be distributed each week; equating to over 1 million pounds of produce. There are no income requirements to receive food assistance through the program and all those in need are welcome.
Find a complete list and schedule of the F2F Food Box distributions HERE.
Great Plains Food Bank makes COVID-19 response estimate
The F2F Food Box Program is a large part of the Great Plains Food Bank’s COVID-19 response, which is estimated at nearly $12 million over the next 12 months. This figure includes more than $2 million needed to be raised through fundraising and value of food to be distributed - expected at 7.3 million pounds, which accounts for 6 million meals.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we quickly shifted into disaster response mode filling urgent, immediate needs. We truly are navigating unchartered waters and every day we build a more robust response plan based on the latest information and data,” Sobolik said of the estimate. “We are now in a position where we are comfortable forecasting the seriousness of this public health and economic crisis. We know the needs of our neighbors won’t go away anytime soon; we are here for the long haul to stand beside them as we always have. We are going to do everything that we can to continue to be a valuable and trusted source for hungry children, seniors and families across North Dakota and western Minnesota and we will be there to help them through this.”
Since the country was stricken by the pandemic, the Great Plains Food Bank has seen a spike in demand for food assistance. Specifically, it has seen a 44 percent increase in need reported from its network of partner food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens and a 79 percent increase at its Mobile Food Pantry distributions.
Find more information on the Great Plains Food Bank response to COVID-19 at www.greatplainsfoodbank.org.
About the Great Plains Food Bank
Now it its 38th year, the Great Plains Food Bank serves as North Dakota’s only food bank. Its partner network includes 213 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and other charitable feeding programs operating in 99 communities across N.D. and Clay County, Minn. Since 1983, the Great Plains Food Bank, through its partners and programs, have distributed more than 175 million meals to children, seniors, and families in need. The Great Plains Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network and was named the Not-for-Profit of the Year for 2018 by the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.