Two officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) traveled to mid-Missouri’s Columbia on Friday to promote a federal program that is addressing hunger needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A resident makes a donation to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia on August 21, 2020 (photo courtesy of the food bank’s Twitter page)

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach says the farmers to families food box program is providing fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry Americans, including clients of the food bank in Columbia.

“And it’s been able to get fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products and meat products to families across America,” Ibach says.

The farmers to families food box program is managed by USDA, which partners with national, regional and local distributors to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American farmers. USDA says the program has delivered more than 67 million food boxes to needy American families, as of today.

Funding is coming from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and other sources.

Mr. Ibach was joined by USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce and by U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, at Friday’s press conference, which took place in the food bank’s parking lot.

Mr. Fordyce, who has a farm in northwest Missouri’s Bethany, served as the state Department of Agriculture (MDA) director from 2013 to 2017, under former Governor Jay Nixon (D). Fordyce emphasizes the importance of the farmers to families food box program.

Under Secretary Ibach also praises the work being done at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia, which serves 32 counties in the two regions.

Columbia, Jefferson City, Hannibal, Marshall, Mexico, Moberly and Sedalia are some of the towns served by the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

Congresswoman Hartzler, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee in Washington, also praises the food bank. She tells reporters that the food bank distributed 33-million pounds of food last year.

“Just very proud of the way that they are taking the food that is being provided to them and making sure that it gets to feed hungry families in our area,” says Hartzler.

Hartzler says more than 100,000 Missourians received food assistance last year, from the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. The food bank’s website notes it works with 140 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other agencies.

It is the only food bank in Missouri that provides food at no charge to other organizations.

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