The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food for nationwide distribution through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Jan. 4.

“This new round of Farmers to Families Food Boxes will go a long way in helping American families access nutritious and healthy meals as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Perdue said.

In total, USDA has distributed more than 132 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The additional funding for the program was included in the COVID-19 relief package as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed Dec. 21. In this fifth round of purchases, USDA will again purchase combination boxes to ensure all involved recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products, and seafood products will also be included in this round.

The solicitation will be issued to over 240 organizations that have previously received Basic Ordering Agreements. Solicitations to existing BOA holders were expected to be issued by the end of the week of the announcement, with contract awards expected to be made by Jan. 19. Deliveries will begin shortly after awards are issued and continue through the end of April. Additional BOA proposals will not be reviewed nor accepted at this time.

The program is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Using authority provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, USDA partnered with national, regional and local distributors, whose workforces were significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase and distribute agricultural products to Americans in need.