USDA urged to include North Country in fifth round of Farmers to Families Food Box program

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — The USDA is being urged to include the North Country in a food box program.

The United States Department of Agriculture is being asked to include North Country families, distributors and producers in the fifth round of food purchases through the Farmers to Families Food Box program. The program allows communities to receive wholesale, local products on a regular basis.

The USDA was recently awarded funding through U.S. Congress to continue this program through the initial months of 2021. The USDA plans to continue the program, but parts of New York Stare are excluded from the Food Box program. This includes twelve rural counties in Upstate, New York.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik issued a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, asking the Department to include counties in the North Country in the extended program.

The full letter is featured below.

I write following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recent announcement continuing the Farmers to Families Food Box Program for a fifth round of food purchases. This announcement comes at a critical time for many families not only in the twelve rural counties that I represent, but across the United States who remain in need of immediate support. While I am encouraged by USDA’s decision to continue the Food Box program into the first few months of 2021, I remain deeply concerned that the distribution plan will leave too many communities unserved.

As discussed in the letter I sent on December 11, 2020, the last round of the program unfortunately excluded many parts of New York State, including my district, from receiving Food Boxes. This distribution model awarded contracts to downstate distributors, leaving upstate families and producers out of the equation. In contrast, the county allocation model that USDA was previously following allowed our areas to keep food sourced and distributed locally. Many farmers and processors in our districts were able to witness the direct impact that their food was having on those within their own communities who needed the product. And, most importantly, our communities were receiving wholesome, fresh product on a regular basis.

Now that an additional $1.5 billion in funding was provided to USDA through the most recently passed COVID-19 relief package, I urge USDA to reconsider its allocation model and ensure that upstate New York’s rural communities are included in the distribution for the fifth round of the Food Box program. Families in the most rural parts of our state are still facing significant challenges with food insecurity, especially as many of them are still learning and working from home. It is essential that they be included in the next round of the program.

I commend the important work that USDA has done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to address the food insecurity needs in our communities while also ensuring that farmers who have surplus product can distribute it back into their communities. I appreciate your attention to this matter, and I look forward to working together to address the needs of our rural communities, and our must vulnerable, in the most effective way possible.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s letter to the USDA regarding the inclusion of the North Country in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program

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