Farmers to Families Food Box Program Discontinued – Apr…
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will be discontinued in May ’21, citing high prices, uneven distribution and lack of oversight. The Farmers to Families Food Box Program was created in Apr ’20, originally authorizing purchases of up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. Additional funding authorization was included within four subsequent rounds of the program. Total purchases across the five rounds of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program ending Apr ’21 are estimated to total up to $5.5 billion. No additional funding is expected within the one-month extension of the fifth and final round of the program.
More than 157 million food boxes have been delivered thus far under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Equal amounts of fresh produce, dairy and meat products were expected under the program. Dairy purchases through the first five rounds of the program have included fluid milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, in addition to cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream.
Assuming an equal split in funds allocated to fluid milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, total estimated purchases through the five rounds of the program amounted to an estimated 184 million gallons of fluid milk (assuming a price of $2.50/gallon), 154 million pounds of butter (assuming a retail price of $3.00/lb), 115 million pounds of cheese (assuming a retail price of $4.00/lb) and 307 million pounds of yogurt (assuming a retail price of $1.50/lb). Butter purchases within the program were not incentivized due to the disproportionately low moisture content in butter relative to other required dairy products and purchases are likely overstated in the analysis above.
Going forward, focus will turn to existing food aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in addition to a new fresh produce box program funded through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and a soon to be implemented Dairy Donation Program (DDP). DDP will provide $400 million to help dairy stakeholders and non-profits work together to provide dairy products to food-insecure households and minimize food waste. Detailed DDP regulations have yet to be published.