by Susannah Morgan, CEO
Many people know that congress passed the ‘Families First’ Act to help struggling communities in the wake of COVID-19. But what you might not be aware of is the work that’s being done to connect local farmers and businesses with families in need of emergency food assistance.
That’s where the USDA ‘Farmers to Families’ program comes in. Through this new initiative, we’re partnering local food producers and distributors whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of schools, restaurants and other places where meals were served daily pre-pandemic.
The program invests about $27 million with Oregon-based industry partners — from smaller, women-owned operations like Fry Family Farms to major distributors like Pacific Coast Fruit. The USDA website has a a full list of participating companies in our region (so far). Together, we’ll pack and distribute emergency food boxes full of fresh produce, dairy and meat to families throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.
To be clear, this is a program designed to address the immediate, emergency needs of this crisis. It is not a replacement for effective anti-hunger initiatives like SNAP and WIC — we need significant federal investment in these programs to deal with the long-term economic fallout of the pandemic.
It’s also a very new program — with initial contracts announced May 8th, so we’re still very early in the process. So we can’t yet say how the program will play out in the long-term, here or in other parts of the country.
What we do know today is that we’re experiencing a dramatic increase in need of 20-70% across the Oregon Food Bank Network. And while predetermined boxes are certainly not the ideal way to deliver food — we want to offer as much consumer choice as possible — emergency boxes will help to bridge the gap until additional aid arrives in July.
So I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the wonderful relationships this community has with local food producers and distributors. We’re incredibly grateful for their partnership as we work together to meet this crisis head-on — and we look forward to continuing our shared work connect food to families who need it most.
You can learn more about this program and many other ways to get involved in our efforts on our #EmergeStronger resource page.
Thank you for all you’re doing to build stronger, more resilient communities that never know hunger!