“United Fresh Produce Association and our members appreciate USDA’s continued efforts to ensure the most vulnerable among us have adequate access to food. We also share the Secretary’s commitment to address nutrition insecurity and, accordingly, are concerned that this proposal falls short of providing sufficient access to fresh produce to meet that goal.
Over the past year, we have learned much about how federal food purchasing can work better when parameters are put in place that frees USDA to prioritize factors like access to a wide variety of fresh produce sourced from a diverse set of growers (including small and regional) and expanding the emergency feeding network to be more inclusive of credible nonprofits that can address the unique needs of local communities, including rural and historically marginalized populations. At its peak, USDA was purchasing nearly six million boxes per week, featuring more than 100 types of fresh produce commodities, and utilizing a local distribution network of more than 11,000 community nonprofits, including TEFAP agencies. While well intentioned, the TEFAP Fresh Produce Program as currently implemented follows an antiquated model that cannot meet the full potential in addressing nutrition insecurity.
Quite frankly, the evolution of emergency food purchasing that moved away from USDA’s traditional food purchase programs during the Covid-19 pandemic should not be ignored or dismissed. USDA has an enormous opportunity to procure the foods that will help individuals meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendations to make half the plate fruits and vegetables. We know that this Administration is committed to increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and we remain hopeful that together we can work to make this vision a reality.”