The Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative (MARC) has been awarded a $3.7 million contract with the United States Department of Agriculture to administer a portion of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP). The MARC will be producing and distributing more than 160,000 fresh produce boxes to food banks across the Mid-Atlantic to support food-insecure individuals adversely affected by COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The terms of the grant are May 15-June 30, though USDA has indicated they plan to continue programming through December of 2020.

The MARC, a program of Feeding Pennsylvania, has extensive experience sourcing and transporting fresh produce for its member food banks. Weeks before the USDA announced CFAP, the MARC had already established a program, producing 20-pound mixed produce boxes to better support the COVID-19 response.

“The MARC aims to support our member food banks by coordinating the sourcing and logistics of affordable fresh produce,” said James DeMarsh, director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative. “COVID-19 presented a lot of challenges for food banks in distributing bulk produce. Thanks to a grant from Feeding America, we quickly pivoted to building pre-packed mixed produce boxes to enable fast, efficient, and low-touch distribution. The new USDA program will give us the opportunity to expand our capacity to reach more families in need,” said DeMarsh.

Through CFAP, the USDA will partner with farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors, distributors, and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the fresh and wholesome food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency. This program is specifically designed to help distributors, like the MARC, package family-sized boxes with fresh produce, dairy and meat products, all produced in the United States, and transport them to nonprofits and food banks across their designated territory.

“Feeding Pennsylvania is incredibly proud of the MARC and their successful application,” said Jane Clements-Smith, executive director of Feeding Pennsylvania. “Our food banks have faced many challenges throughout the COVID-19 crisis as we have seen need increasing due to temporary unemployment. It is essential that we distribute more food to more people in need while adhering to CDC guidelines, and these produce boxes are the perfect solution for continuing to offer fresh produce while minimizing risk for our employees, volunteers, and most importantly, the people we serve.

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