Farmers to Families program supports distributors, local farmers and families in need

Lincoln families are getting access to fresh and healthy produces grown by Nebraska farmers thanks to a new USDA program.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln families are getting access to fresh and healthy produces grown by Nebraska farmers thanks to a new USDA program.

The program, called Farmers to Families Food Box, doesn’t just help the families, but also the farmers and local distributors like Lone Tree Foods, which connects farmers to restaurants, schools and stores.

"When COVID-19 became severe in our area our customers, restaurants and food services closed or reduced their services, which took away a lot of revenue," Justin Jones, general manager for Lone Tree Foods said. "Then of course with schools really limiting what they were doing that's another revenue stream impacted."

Then, they came across the Farmers to Families Food Box, a USDA program funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

The program provides money to Lone Tree Foods so they could buy produce from local farmers to distribute to families in need.

"We have yogurt and cheese from dairy farms, sweet corn, tomatoes, kale, greens, zucchini, a lot of different produce that's in season so these are pretty great boxes," Jones said.

Jones delivered 50 of these boxes to Community Action Head Start Tuesday morning.

"When I got to tell my families that we have a box of food for them to pickup I hear relief, I hear 'oh thank goodness,' or 'that's wonderful,' or 'this is really going to help my food budget which is already stretched thing,'" Kathy Sullivan Romero, family engagement specialist for Head Start said.

Jones said this program is a win-win-win. It’s helped keep Lone Tree Foods afloat, helps Nebraska farmers sell produce that may not otherwise be sold and also helps families in need.

"We have such amazing food grown here in Nebraska but people who live here don't always have access to it, especially if they're underprivileged or can't afford to spend more," Jones said. "To be able to deliver wonderful products that I know to be the best you can get grown here in Nebraska to folks who don't normally get to try them is really satisfying."

Lone Tree Foods has delivered 600 food boxes to Community Action Head Start in Lincoln and seven other organizations in Omaha since July.

Sullivan Romero said this is absolutely making a difference for the recipients like her students.

“Nutrition is such a critical part of children’s health and well-being and it means the world to be to be able to offer it to them when I know what’s in that box, when I know it’s good nutritious food,” Sullivan Romero said.

Jones said he has funding to continue to provide boxes through the end of August, though he said he hopes the program will be extended.

Nationwide, the Farmers to Families Food Box program has provided $3 billion in funding to distributors, allowing more than 50 million food boxes to be delivered.

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