Leahy, Sanders And Welch Announce 2-Month Extension Of Farmers To Families Food Box COVID-19 Relief Program In Vermont

Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I), and Representative Peter Welch (D) announced Wednesday that two Vermont-based entities, the Abbey Group and Willing Hands, have secured extended contracts through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue the delivery of food boxes throughout this summer through the end of August.  These two contracts will bring an additional $8.5 million in nutrition assistance to Vermont and the Upper Valley community in New Hampshire, most of which will go toward buying produce and dairy from local farms.

The Farmers to Families Food Box program partners with regional and local producers to purchase fresh produce, dairy and meat for distribution to food insecure families.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Leahy played a lead role in negotiating authority for the USDA program and including it in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress in March.

In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said:  “We offer our heartfelt congratulations and thanks to the Abbey Group and Willing Hands who both secured extended contracts from the USDA to administer the Farmers to Families Food Box program throughout the summer.  The coronavirus pandemic has starkly highlighted inequities in our society nationwide.  Here in Vermont, we have seen miles of cars lined up so that families and individuals can get the food they need to make it through the week.  Through the hard work and dedication of the Abbey Group, Willing Hands, the State of Vermont, the Vermont Foodbank and countless other partners and farmers around the state, Vermonters will be able to continue to have access to fresh local produce through the coming months.  We know that hunger will extend beyond the summer, and we will continue to fight for federal assistance for nutrition programs in our state and nationwide.  Ultimately, we need to expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (3SquaresVT) to address the skyrocketing rates of hunger in the face of COVID-19.  If Vermonters or their families are having trouble putting food on the table, they can call 2-1-1 to see if they qualify for 3SquaresVT.”

The Abbey Group will distribute 266,000 boxes to Vermont families through August.  The boxes will contain dairy products from HP Hood Dairy, Monument Farms Dairy, Thomas Dairy, Cabot, Shelburne Farms and Kingdom Creamery.  They will also contain 440,000 pounds of local produce from Reinhart Food Service, Black River Produce, Green Mountain Farm to School, Healthy Roots Collaborative, the Center for Agricultural Economy, Deep Root Organics and others.  Details on how to sign up to receive food boxes can be found on the Vermont Department of Emergency Management’s website.  Willing Hands will distribute food boxes through food shelves throughout the Upper Valley.