( Photo courtesy Humusak; Source Unsplash; Graphic by Brooke Park )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering contracts for its massive food box program to companies that were passed over in the first round of contracts for technical errors, such as a missed signature or unchecked box.

Other companies that received contracts through the end of June will receive extensions for July 1 – Aug. 30. In all, the second round will be for up to $1.16 billion in fresh produce, dairy and cooked meat products, according to a news release.

The USDA previously announced new Farmers to Families Food Box Program contracts would focus companies delivering to food banks in areas that have haven’t received the boxes since the program began in mid-May, or where demand isn’t being met.
In the wake of the first round of contracts being announced May 8, some companies that have established relationships with food banks said their proposals were denied for minor omissions or errors on their applications.

“USDA has reviewed these proposals and found they demonstrate that these firms can meet the program’s distribution and delivery requirements,” according to the June 17 release.

As of June 17, more than 17 million boxes had been delivered to about 3,200 food banks across the U.S. and in Guam and Puerto Rico, according to the USDA.

Distributors receiving extensions are still subject to audits to ensure food safety protocols are followed and U.S.-produced food is being used, according to the release.

Other companies did not receive extensions because of “concerns brought up during audits or for performance challenges,” according to the release.

The USDA has not updated the list of original May 8 contract recipients, which includes a $40 million contract to Ben Holtz Consulting, doing business as California Avocadoes Direct. The USDA terminated that contract for undisclosed reasons.

In announcing the new contracts, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised the suppliers and distributors who are involved in the Farmers to Families program.

“They are also a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended – supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most,” Perdue said in the release. “ … The efforts of everyone involved form the backbone of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and its goal to help fill the hunger gap in all of our communities.”

A USDA spokesman said contracts are being finalized and the full list of vendors in the program will be published before July 1.

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