( USDA )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including $461 million for produce purchases. 

A full list of approved suppliers was posted on the Farmers to Families website.

“This is a new, innovative approach to provide critical support to American farmers and families, and USDA moved as expeditiously as federal procurement rules allow to stand up the program and solicit offers,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in the release. “We were pleased to see the abundance of interest from both food distributors and non-profit organizations. Within days, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will begin distributing surplus food, while safeguarding food safety techniques, to communities across the country where it’s needed most.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees that program, which allows national, regional and local distributors to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. The program will purchase $461 million worth of fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy products and $258 million in meat products. Another $175 million will to distributors to pack combinations of produce, dairy and meat products, according to the USDA. 

Suppliers awarded contracts will pack the products into family-sized boxes and transport them to food banks and other non-profit groups from May 15 through June 30. The USDA said it may extend the period of performance of the contracts, depending on the program’s success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.

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