USDA Undersecretary visits Harvest Hope

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach visited Harvest Hope food bank on Tuesday. Harvest Hope is a part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program which seeks to provide local distributors with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products which they then provide to families in need.

“We saw farmers suffering because they didn’t have a market for their produce and milk and dairy products. We saw families start lining up at food banks needing food. And so we devised the Farmers to Families Food Box Program to try to connect the two,” said Ibach.

“When you’re feeding tens of thousands of people every week, this new program from the USDA and all the farmers who’ve contributed to this program, it’s been paramount to feed the clients,” said Harvest Hope food sourcer Doug Groendyke.

Ibach says the program is especially important in states like South Carolina when other states have not been able to provide adequate fruits and vegetables like this past April.

“Not only did we distribute fresh produce here to families in South Carolina, but families across our nation, especially on the eastern side of our nation benefited from what South Carolina farmers were raising,” said Ibach.

The program has provided American families with over 86 million food boxes so far.

“So the story I’m hearing at Harvest Hope today is the same one that I’ve heard at food banks across our nation. They saw their demand for food increase by 30% to 50% to 60% during COVID, because people needed food and people were out of work and couldn’t buy food,” said Ibach.

The program has greatly impacted both families in need and farmers.

“Then the USDA Farmers to Families program came out, and we were able to establish new markets, save the latter half of our crop. We still lost money, but that point in time we were able to participate, harvest our crop, and that meant a lot. And there’s more stories like that all across this country, where this program has helped farmers, has helped people in need and has also helped the food banks,” said Chalmers Carr, owner of Titan Farms.

“People need help, and that’s what we’re here for. And to be able to provide fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy, dry goods to feed their families and put it on their plate, that’s huge. That’s tremendous,” said Groendyke.

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