The Emergency Food Bank of Stockton/San Joaquin County was one of the first in California to receive produce boxes from the $1.2 billion USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The first delivery of hundreds of produce boxes was welcomed by state and local dignitaries on Friday, May 15.
Emergency Food Bank’s new CEO, Leonard Hansen, Ph.D., stated “We welcome the opportunity to now be able to offer 38,500 people per month a fresh quality produce box.”
With unprecedented unemployment resulting in unmet needs of food insecure families and the food supply chain also suffering immensely, USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box Program is a revolutionary solution with amazing benefits to many.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $1.2 billion in produce, dairy and meat purchases from May 15 through June 30 through its new Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The overall food purchase program will total $1.2 billion, with another $175 million in combination boxes that may include produce.
“We are blessed to be a part of this program that will benefit so many during these challenging times for everyone,” said Jana Nairn, spokesperson for Ag Link, a Northern California company that is coordinating this program.
As part of the Families First Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, USDA worked with industry leaders to develop a creative solution that would not only help get food to those struggling with unemployment and food insecurity during this time, but also support farmers and the entire food industry that has also seen major changes in flow of products since the mid-March COVID-19 shut downs.
Nairn added, “The way that USDA put this program together to use distributors as the leads was genius. It really will provide a ripple effect boost to the local economy with benefits to so many in the food supply chain while meeting the needs of the local food insecure population.”
Ag Link is a local produce aggregator that has been a leader in farm to school product distribution since 2012. The afternoon of Friday, March 13 more than half of the school districts’ Ag Link services canceled all of their orders that were scheduled for delivery the following Monday morning. The next week the rest of the schools serviced by Ag Link shut down as well. The ramifications on farmers and packing houses was felt immediately. Some schools resumed food service on a limited basis through community feeding programs, but still Ag Link’s trucks, drivers and suppliers have been shipping less than 50 percent of normal volumes this time of year.
Partnering with Fresh Innovations of Stockton and Taylor Farms of Salinas, Ag Link will be providing nearly 4000 boxes per day to consumers through local non-profit outlets across the Central Valley
Ag Link is producing mixed produce boxes and another combination box that has produce plus cooked chicken prepared by The Tri-Tipery in Ballico. Other highlights in the box include stone fruit from Sierra Sun in Sanger; tomatoes from Lipman Family Farms, Stockton; onions and potatoes from Onions, Etc, Stockton; and sweet potatoes from Doreva Produce in Livingston.
The Emergency Food Bank of Stockton/San Joaquin County is another one of Ag Link’s outlets that has been overwhelmed with demand the past few months from consumers seeking assistance and like many food banks are not getting enough supplies donated due to all of the businesses and industries that are shut down. This program will help fill the gap.
To receive food assistance, volunteer or donate, contact the Emergency Food Bank at 7 W. Scotts Ave., Stockton, CA 95203. Call (209) 464-7369 or visit www.StocktonFoodBank.org.