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Officials Advocate To Get More Maine Farmers, Food Distributors Included In USDA Food Box Program

Kevin Bennett
For Maine Public
Intake Volunteer Debbie Loguercio bags bread along with other food items to be handed out to people in need at the Dover-Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard in May.

Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include Maine farmers and food distributors in a program that buys fresh produce, dairy and meat from farmers and distributes them to people in need.

The Farmers to Families Food Box Program is part of the federal response to the pandemic, and is currently accepting applications for its fifth round.

Emily Horton, director of policy and community engagement at DACF, says the program has used Maine food distributors in only one of those rounds.

“Specifically with states like Maine where we have a lower population, a higher distribution cost, we need to make sure we’re asking ourselves who are the key players, who are the distributors who can really implement this program efficiently, and effectively,” she says.

Horton says there are good reasons to use Maine farmers in the program.

“We know that we’re going to be supporting Maine farms, Maine businesses, keeping money in the local economy. But also that we can get more Maine food to more Mainers,” she says.

In a letter today on Wednesday, DACF is also asking that the USDA ensure that food boxes are distributed equitably across the country and within states, and that it allocate more resources to support local food producers.

Horton says the USDA doesn’t reveal how it decides who is included in the program, but inthe letter, DACF is asking that the USDA clarify its process.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.