OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made stops across Nebraska Friday, including a visit to Food Bank for the Heartland.
He was joined by Governor Pete Ricketts and Congressman Don Bacon for a tour to assess how critical the food bank is, especially during this global pandemic.
With so many people out of work due to COVID-19, the need to help stock shelves has increased.
Farmers and food distributors were also impacted when restaurants and businesses went into lock down, forcing America’s eating habits to change.
“It’s misaligned,” Perdue said. “Over half of our calories have been being consumed in institutional settings, and now we have to pivot very quickly,”
A month into the pandemic, Perdue announced The Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
With $3 billion through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the United States Agriculture Department was able to purchase and distribute produce to those in need, like Food Bank for the Heartland.
“It’s win-win-win situation,” Perdue said. “Farmers were having to destroy produce and dump milk and potentially euthanize animals.”
Twenty-five pound boxes of fresh produce are delivered to the food bank, helping them feed food insecure families. Many of those families are trying to recover from being out of work.
Food Bank for the Heartland provided 28.1 million meals this year, 5.5 million more than this time last year.
According to the Food bank for the Heartland CEO Brian Barks, they have been able to distribute around 600,000 pounds of fresh produce through the USDA program.
“It’s great product,” Barks said. “Its premium grade A produce that we are receiving that has helped us a lot.”
The demand for these boxes is not going away anytime soon, according to Perdue.
“We expect this need to be with us until we can get unemployment back to where it needs to be and people have jobs,” Perdue said.
According to the USDA, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed more than 80 million boxes to food banks and families in need.