On Tuesday, June 30, Joseph Fox, Newaygo County COA Director, was invited to a presentation and press conference at VanEerden Foodservices in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The special guest was Sonny Perdue, United States Secretary of Agriculture. The host was Dan VanEerden, VanEerden Foodservices CEO.
The focus of the program was on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Boxes that are currently being distributed to families and individuals experiencing food scarcity across the United States because of the C-19 situation. This program was developed to move food directly from farmers to tables of people in need. Here is a summary of the program from the USDA website:
As part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Secretary Perdue announced on April 17, USDA is exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need. Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. The program will supply boxes packaged with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat products and a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.
The first round of purchases totaling up to $1.2 billion occurred from May 15 through June 30, 2020. The second round will aim to purchase up to $1.47 billion July 1 through August 31, 2020. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.
VanEerden Foodservices became a vital link in the distribution chain of these commodities. Locally, the Newaygo County Commission on Aging (COA) has distributed over 800 of these food boxes to meals-on-wheels participants and other families in need. It is expected that the program will continue into September and possibly longer. For further information about the Produce Boxes, Meals-on-Wheels, and other older adult services in Newaygo County, please call the COA (231-689-2100).