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An up close look at the food box program

Chris Admire, executive director of Kansas City’s Veterans Community Project, oversaw a food box handout at a high school in Kansas City, Mo. (photo by Sadie Johnson)

After having written many stories about the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, I got to experience it first-hand.

Last weekend, Kansas City’s Veterans Community Project held a food box distribution event at a local high school.

Chris Admire, executive director of the project, said the group advertised the food box event by passing out flyers in the community, contacting school families, local churches and using social media. They gave out hundreds of boxes, but by Saturday afternoon, the lines of needy people dried up.

We got the word that there were more boxes than people, so we went to the high school and picked up a few boxes. Ours were filled with bags of apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, lettuce and carrots, and there were a couple melons.

We kept what we could eat and gave the rest to friends and family, who were extremely appreciative.

Admire said the veterans’ group was contacted by Loffredo Fresh Foods, BB #:101797, Des Moines, IA, about holding a distribution event.

“Their employees boxed it up, and we were here to distribute it to the community,” he said. “We are typically a veterans-only service, but because of COVID-19, there are more people we’re able to help.”

A Loffredo refrigerated trailer held the pallets of boxes until they were all given away.

Loffredo was not a food box contract recipient, but likely subcontracted with Tulsa Fruit DBA GoFresh BB #:102482 Tulsa, OK, whose name was on the boxes. Neither Loffredo nor GoFresh returned calls for confirmation.

Kelly Seward, director of communications for the veterans’ group was also at the event and said they usually have events like this in their own parking lot, but it wasn’t big enough for the reefer trailer and large crowds.

The produce in the boxes we received were high quality staples, the exact kind of food this program is designed to deliver.

In my experience, the program did what it was designed to do: get excess product off the market by buying it from producers; keep the middle market busy procuring, packing and delivering fresh produce; and delivering high quality nutritious food to needy consumers.

Clearly, there was some disconnect in the supply and demand dynamic, which is how I ended up with several boxes in my house.

But my family appreciated it, as did the families who we gave the extra produce to.

As far as downsides go, there is a lot of good in it.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services