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Officials discuss impact of USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Through the USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box Program, 60 million food boxes are in the hands of families that need it most with efforts continuing in Kearney this week.

Cash-Wa Distributing in Kearney plays a major role in the USDA program to meet the need in Nebraska and surrounding states. The company is one of 198 contractors that signed up to source, package and distribute food to families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People can receive three boxes filled with meat, dairy and produce. Volunteers at Cash-Wa package the food boxes, which are shipped to non-profit organizations, schools and food banks in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

“Before we were able to get Cash-Wa on board those areas were very under-served,” said Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary. “We needed to have Cash-Wa be a partner and their great relationships across the upper Midwest here to be able to get food to families in three or four states.”

Cash-Wa ships around 55,000 food boxes every week.

Ibach and Rep. Adrian Smith toured Cash-Wa Wednesday and met with local leaders to discuss the success of all the groups’ involvement in the program thus far.

“It’s great to see the efficiency of the products getting out. I mean, distribution: We’re a big country. We’re a big state and it takes a lot to distribute these products. That’s why it’s great to see this first hand,” Smith said.

The program is also designed to help producers during the pandemic.

Through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and while exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchased up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers.

Iback said they’ve had a great response to the program, especially on the meat and dairy sides.

The USDA program wrapped up its second phase recently with all but two original contractors finished. They’re now in the process of having companies sign up for a third distribution within the next few months.

Funding Congress made available will end with the fiscal year. After that, the USDA program would need authorization from Congress to continue.

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