On behalf of USDA, we extend our sincere appreciation to all who worked with us on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Since May of last year, you have helped deliver more than 155 million food boxes across the United States, feeding many families in need.
The Farmers to Families Food Box program was designed and implemented as a temporary, emergency relief effort to respond to severe market disruption caused by a global pandemic. The environment today is much different than when this program was created at the beginning of the pandemic. The condition of our economy has continued to improve since the start of the year. Thanks to investments by Congress, food insecure Americans now have greater access to a more robust, expanded federal nutrition safety net including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), school and summer meals for children, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and commodity purchases for food banks—which are working in concert to reach those in need.
As we move forward in this changing environment, the Farmers to Families Food Box program will sunset at the end of May and remaining funding set aside for this temporary program will be used in this final extension period. Over the next six weeks, USDA will continue to take feedback and look for opportunities to use existing channels to meet food assistance needs and to use funding provided by Congress in COVID assistance to respond in new ways. Recently, USDA began to offer a fresh produce box on a temporary basis through TEFAP, provided in response to a demand for more fresh produce from food banks and their clients. This produce box is not intended to replace the Farmers to Families Food Box but is an example of USDA applying lessons learned from the Farmers to Families Food Box experience to inform future activities. We are also in the process of designing a Dairy Donation Program to facilitate the timely donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to persons in need and prevent and minimize food waste.
USDA commodity purchases will continue to occur and be directed to existing channels of distribution as we transition away from this program. At the same time, we continue to expand and improve the federal nutrition safety net to ensure those who need food assistance get it, especially the most vulnerable and hard to reach individuals and communities.
We have learned some positive lessons from the Farmers to Families effort, and we will take those lessons to improve existing and future programs. We look forward to working alongside you to support American agriculture and provide nutrition assistance to the American people.
We are grateful for the partners who helped to get this program off the ground quickly. We hope many of those—especially the community-based partners—remain as part of our network. If your organization is interested in becoming an approved USDA foods vendor, we encourage you to visit our website to learn about the education and application process. If you have questions about becoming a new vendor, please email NewVendor@ams.usda.gov. If your organization is interested in distributing food through TEFAP, we encourage you to reach out to your state agency for more information on how to apply. State/Local Agency | USDA-FNS