Apr 22, 2020
USDA to accept proposals for Buy Fresh program

On April 21, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service hosted a webinar on the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) USDA Purchase & Distribution Program.

Gene McAvoy, associate director for stakeholder relations, University of Florida IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, provided the following summary of the webinar.

USDA logoThe USDA, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, plans to purchase and distribute up to $3 billion of agricultural products to those in need. USDA plans to partner with regional and local distributors and other food service entities to purchase USA grown and processed fresh produce, dairy and meat products.

USDA will issue a solicitation by the end of next week inviting proposals to supply preferably “mixed” commodity boxes from food distributors to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, such as food banks. USDA will award contracts for the purchase of the agricultural products, assembly of commodity boxes and delivery to identified nonprofit organizations that can then receive, store and distribute food items.

For questions about CFAP, which is also being referred to as the “food boxes” distribution program, email [email protected]

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) USDA Purchase & Distribution Program is a new program that will operate with a new set of guidelines. USDA AMS will administer the program, rather than state-based agencies.

USDA has asked that anyone with an interest in participating in the program www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/usda-food-box-distribution-program and review all requirements carefully.

Once the USDA reviews proposals, awards will be posted to the USDA Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) page at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/usda-food-box-distribution-program.

The concept for CFAP is for contractors to supply preapproved commodities to recipients that can distribute USDA-procured foods to end users. Contractors are responsible for all supply chain and logistics and activities necessary to ensure boxes are distributed to persons in need within the United States.

Those submitting proposals must understand which foods are in demand by the nonprofit, what quantities can be distributed by the nonprofit and the preferred packaging.

All products must be 100% U.S. origin, grown and processed in the U.S. USDA AMS will release a list of the pre-approved foods.

According to the webinar, food items must fall within six box categories:

  • Box 1: Fresh Produce
  • Box 2: Variety of Dairy Products
  • Box 3: Pre-Cooked Chicken and Pork Products
  • Box 4: Fresh Fluid Milk (can be included in Dairy Variety box or by itself)
  • Box 5: Any combination of 1-3, above

Factors that may influence contract awards include product priority, variety within the box, shelf-life, value, and packaging size. Products can be retail or food service items based on the need and ability of the non-profit to handle.

The host of the webinar, David Tuckwiller, summarized it this way, the USDA will consider the offers submitted and is more interested in procuring numerous small boxes of mixed food that can easily be moved from truck to truck rather than full trucks of any one community.

The USDA AMS Procurement Agent In-Charge, Hilary Cole, mentioned procurement offers should explain support for local agriculture and non-profit organizations as well as the geographical area, number of participants and boxes served.

Awards will be distributed among seven geographic regions across the United States including the Southeast but distributors may submit proposals for business in more than one region.

Important dates to remember:

The request for solicitation will be released on April 24, 2020

  • Due date for proposals is May 1, 2020
  • Awards will be announced May 8, 2020

Delivery of boxes can include any or all of the following four date ranges:

  • Beginning May 15 – June 30
  • July 1 – Aug. 31
  • Sept. 1 – Oct. 31
  • Nov. 1 – Dec. 31

USDA gives more details about the Buy Fresh program and a link to its solicitation page here.

— By Gene McAvoy, University of Florida

NOTE: Agricultural Marketing Service’s Commodity Procurement Program will procure an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations and other nonprofits serving Americans in need.

For details on purchases, visit the solicitations page. The list of vegetables includes canned vegetables and dehydrated potato flakes.

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