United Fresh Produce Association’s Produce Box Working Group Delivers 30 Food Box Recommendations to USDA
WASHINGTON, DC - In tandem with making big news across the industry with the announcement that it would be merging with the Produce Marketing Association just over a week ago, United Fresh Produce Association also made a key move to help guide a new program around produce food boxes.
On March 31, the association’s Produce Box Working Group presented the USDA with a set of 30 recommendations in response to the agency’s request for input on the creation of a successor program to the temporary food box purchase program created in April 2020 in response to COVID-19.
“This program has demonstrated that the way USDA has traditionally procured and distributed food, especially in fresh produce, has been limited and has not supported the majority of produce farmers, and distributors, and doesn't make it easy to provide nutritional security to low-income children and families. Most importantly this program has recognized that government private partnerships work on a large scale to address a significant need in our country,” said Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for United Fresh. “To that end we believe this program has a strong foundation to continue not just as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but as another tool for USDA to reach its goals of having healthy and nutritious food delivered to our most vulnerable populations.”
In November 2020, United Fresh convened a meeting of the entire produce supply chain to address challenges and opportunities that would come from a new produce food box program. According to a release from the association, more than 100 individuals and companies participated in the group, including 30 nonprofit food organizations.
The comprehensive meeting of industry minds led to the creation of detailed recommendations to be submitted to the USDA, as well as three overarching recommendations, including:
- Return to Produce-Only Boxes
- Eliminate low cost as determining factor in contract decisions
- Provide expanded, smaller contracts, including multiple awards in states and USDA Regions
“From our meetings, there was a shared desire in the working group to maximize the nutritional value for box recipients and to improve the box quality and service by a more equitable distribution of contracts across the country. That was the overriding goal of this effort,” said Mollie Van Lieu, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy for United Fresh.
Participants of the group also shared comments and feedback, including Joan Daleo, CEO of Ole Tyme Produce.
“The USDA Farmers to Families Box program represents the best in American ingenuity,” she said. “The program innovatively knitted together supporting America’s farms, the fresh food commercial supply chain, and feeding the growing food insecure population. It left our company forever changed by the higher purpose of serving our fellow Americans who needed it most.”
Cagney Korbin, Director of Sales at Five Star Gourmet Foods, also commented on the recent group meeting.
“The collaboration and comprehensive views provided by the United Fresh working groups have been a breath of fresh air for the potential continuation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” said Korbin. “The ability for 100 separate working members to come together and agree upon a consensus of multiple recommendations that we believe would have a positive impact on the program and provide added nutritional benefits to the end user will make a huge difference as this program continues.”
To read the comments of other participants, click here.
As industry members continue to rally around the food box program, how will it continue to develop? Stick with AndNowUKnow for updates.