USDA’s Food Box Program Receives Another Adjustment

Brian German Agri-Business, Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has amended the parameters for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) originally specified that contracts would only be accepted for combination boxes containing a mix of produce, dairy, and meat. The new plan for the third round of the program now allows companies to pack commodity-specific boxes.

USDA's Food Box Program

The amendment notes that three additional types of boxes will be allowed within the guidelines of the program. Contractors can produce fresh fruit and vegetable boxes, meat boxes, and dairy boxes which includes fluid milk. Each of the commodity-specific boxes has individual specifications that detail what they need to contain.

Fruit and vegetable boxes will need to include between four and six pounds of root vegetables, between four and six pounds of fruits with longer shelf life, one or two leafy vegetables, and one or two locally grown items when available. The meat boxes are required to contain between 15 and 18 pounds of at least four different types of meat and egg items. Meats will need to be pre-cooked and boxes are not to contain more than three pounds of luncheon meat items. Dairy boxes will need to have between eight and 12 pounds of at least two dairy items, including at least one from the groups listed in the amendment.

In the FAQ section of the amendment, AMS indicates that combination boxes will still be given priority. The agency notes “combination boxes have the most nutritional value for families receiving each box.” Between $500 million and $700 million remains available for the third round of the food box program. There is no deadline for contract proposals and Basic Ordering Agreements will be issued on a rolling basis. According to USDA, there have been nearly 60 million boxes distributed through food banks and nonprofits through the food box program.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West