USDA AMS and United Fresh Webinar on Buy Fresh Program

The United Fresh Produce Association and the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are hosting a webinar today to further discuss details around the Coronavirus Food Assistance (CFAP) Purchase and Distribution Program.

The webinar will begin at 1:00 pm EDT/10:00 am PDT. You can register for the webinar here.

The new “Buy Fresh” program will procure an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables from regional and local distributors whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice entities. The program is expected to continue for six months.

According to Mollie Van Lieu, Senior Director of Nutrition Policy of United Fresh, the webinar will be offering more information that is key for the fresh produce supply chain. “The idea is to really address that foodservice distribution sector that has the capabilities to deliver fresh produce but doesn’t have the customer base now because of schools and restaurants closings.”

USDA announced they are anticipating issuing solicitations on April 24, 2020, to invite proposals from offerors to supply commodity boxes to non-profit organizations, identified by the offeror, on a mutually agreeable, recurring schedule.

In an interview with Abasto, Van Lieu explained that there are seven different regions that the Buy Fresh program is seeking to cover. Distributors and interested parties can apply for multiple regions or partial regions where they plan to deliver the boxes of fruit and vegetable products. The idea is that it is a consumer-friendly box with a fresh produce mix that can be delivered to these emergency feeding sites, and is ready for use by consumers, without the need for repackaging.

Related Article: News About the Coronavirus and the Food and Beverage Industry

Awards are expected to be announced by May 8, 2020, and the program will be fully operational by May 15, 2020. USDA will award contracts for the purchase of the agricultural products, the assembly of commodity boxes and delivery to identified non-profit organizations that can receive and distribute to those in need.

AMS outlined five different box types:

  1. Fresh fruits and vegetables
  2. Dairy products
  3. Pre-cooked meat
  4. Combination box of fresh produce, dairy products, and pre-cooked meat
  5. Fluid milk products by unit size

Regarding fresh fruit and vegetable boxes, USDA has outlined for following:

  • Products and processing must be of domestic origin
  • Consumer-friendly packaging (but does not need to be retail packs)
  • Awardees must identify and manage relationships with food banks and non-profits and come up with mutually agreeable delivery and box type terms
  • Contracts issued in seven regions (Mid-Atlantic, Mountain, Mountain Plains, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Western) and proposals can be submitted for multiple or partial regions

For Hispanics in the produce industry who need information in Spanish about the Buy Fresh program, Van Lieu said United Fresh can offer assistance in resolving their questions.

Full requirements and specifications will be available when the Request for Proposals is released on April 24th. To receive updates by e-mail, subscribe online by visiting: “Stay up to date on USDA Food Purchases” available on the AMS Commodity Procurement website.