Food Box Program Addresses Food Insecurity and Supports Local Agriculture


By Dennis Archambault


Crises often lead to innovations that become part of the social infrastructure after the crisis passes. For example, the USDA created a Farmers to Families Food Box Program during the time many people in the United States were in a lockdown situation due to the coronavirus pandemic. This program drew on the dual objectives of supporting farmers and meeting addressing food insecurity during the critical months of the pandemic. More than 173 million food boxes of fresh produce, dairy, cooked meats and seafood were distributed throughout the country.


Authority Health had a small role in this innovative program through our Schweitzer Fellow, Jeneen Ali, who worked with Gleaners Food Bank interpreting recipes for Arabic-speaking recipients. She created a consulting service that offered a human connection between the box of food and its recipient. Having a regular conversation about the nutritious benefit of food — especially food you may not be familiar with – supports acceptance.


The USDA program was designed and implemented as a temporary emergency effort and formally expired in 2021. However, a new program was implemented this year and is being administered by the Eastern Market Corporation. Food boxes will be delivered on alternate weeks to 50 low-income patients at Popoff Family Health Center and other sites throughout the community between June and Thanksgiving. Once again, the program will benefit growers in the region, while addressing food insecurity. As a grand finale, the program will distribute turkeys for recipients at Thanksgiving as well.


As we look creating a stronger local agricultural economy and addressing food insecurity, programs like the Farmers to Families Food Box initiative make a great deal of sense. Hopefully, Congress will appropriate funds to allow this program to continue in the next budget.


Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.

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