The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to implement the Buy Fresh program that has been developed as part of the coronavirus stimulus package in which Congress allocated $19 billion in relief funding. USDA intends to use $3 billion for the procurement of food products to be distributed through partnerships with regional and local food distributors. The request for proposals to participate in the program opens on April 24, with proposals needing to be submitted to USDA no later than May 1.
During a webinar detailing the program, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Deputy Administrator David Tuckwiller said that the agency will be working diligently to help American farmers and ranchers get their products to those in need. “We are attempting to move at lightning speed,” Tuckwiller explained. “We’re only going to purchase 100 percent domestically grown and processed products.”
AMS’s Commodity Procurement Program will be purchasing $300 million worth of fresh produce, dairy, and meats on a monthly basis through the purchase program. The goods will be used in the assembly of consumer-sized food boxes which will be sent to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profit groups serving those in need. USDA will be awarding contracts on May 8 for the purchase of agricultural goods, assembly of the food boxes, and delivery to community partners for distribution. The agency indicated there are five categories for the commodity boxes: fresh produce, dairy products, pre-cooked meat, fresh fluid milk, or combination boxes of produce, dairy, meat, and dairy. The delivery of the food boxes is expected to begin on May 15.
Contracts for the Buy Fresh program will be issued in seven different regions and proposals will be accepted that cover multiple regions or only include partial regions. Those awarded with contracts will be responsible for managing the relationships with food banks to coordinate terms for deliveries. More details about the program requirements and how to submit proposals are available on the AMS Commodity Procurement website.