The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already signaled an intent to distribute a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program funds, according to the United Fresh Produce Association.
The USDA’s first two rounds of contracts were for $1.2 billion and $1.47 billion, and the program slated for a $3 billion price tag.
Some of the original $1.2 billion was rescinded, when the USDA cancelled two of the contracts, including one for $40 million.
In a July 8 alert to members, United Fresh it believes the USDA will announce a Request for Proposals in mid-July for $750 million-$800 million.
The current round of contracts, round 2, last through the end of August. A third round would kick in on Sept. 1.
Although almost 200 companies received renewals without formally going through the application process for round two, the USDA approved 16 companies that had originally been passed over for minor paperwork issues. According to the United Fresh e-mail, companies should prepare for the process. Information is available on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service website.
“For companies that previously bid but were not awarded contracts, we advise that you begin to get your bids in order and specifically address any questions that USDA might have advised you, assuming that you continue to want to pursue a contract,” according to United Fresh.
According to the USDA, 32.4 million boxes were distributed through food banks and other non-profits through June 30, and almost 700,000 had been “invoiced” as of July 8 for the second round.
Companies that didn’t submit bids in the first rounds will be considered in round 3, according to United Fresh.
“This is the largest concentrated purchase of fresh produce in USDA history, bringing a boost to participating growers, distributors, and others in the supply chain,” according to the United Fresh notice. “Most importantly, our healthy and nutritious products are getting to those most in need through food banks, schools programs and other emergency feeding sites.”