Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

FW: NEWS RELEASE: Several Michigan Companies Awarded Contracts for USDA Farm to Families Food Box Program


Please see the press release below about Michigan-based awards for this new USDA program.


Be well,


Colleen Matts

(she, her, hers)

Farm to Institution Specialist

Coordinator, Michigan Farm to Institution Network

Core Partner, National Farm to School Network

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems | 517.432.0310 | |



From: Michigan State Police <>
Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 at 12:13 PM
Subject: NEWS RELEASE: Several Michigan Companies Awarded Contracts for USDA Farm to Families Food Box Program



News from the State Emergency Operations Center

Several Michigan Companies Awarded Contracts for USDA Farm to Families Food Box Program 

LANSING, MICH. On May 8, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. At least 10 Michigan suppliers were selected by USDA to help support the program, including Atlas Wholesale Food Company, Clemens Food Group, Coveyou Farms LLC, Del Bene Produce Inc., Eastern Market Corporation, Gordon Food Service, Heeren LLC (Michigan Fresh), LaGrasso Bros., Prairie Farms Dairy, and Van Eerden Foodservice.

Through the program, USDA will contract with distributors and wholesalers who will provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need. The program is expected to begin distributing surplus food to communities within days. 

Several Michigan products will be included in the boxes, including apples, asparagus, bell peppers, blueberries, bratwurst, cabbage, carrots, celery, cheese, concord grapes, cucumbers, fall squash, onions, peaches, potatoes, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini. 

"This is really great news," said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. "Not only will these contracts help the awardees, but they'll also help Michigan farmers—and, most importantly, they'll help get fresh, nutritious food to individuals and families who really need it during this crisis. Michigan is proud to help support this vital program, and we thank USDA for recognizing the quality and capability of Michigan's food and agriculture industry in this way." 

"The seven members of the Food Bank Council of Michigan are distributing 40 percent more food during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. "We understand that solving hunger, whether in a pandemic or not, starts in the field. FBCM is thankful for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program being stood up in such a short amount of time that benefits our farmers and ranchers—this product will help fill the food gap and take hunger off the table for many of our Michigan families who are struggling during this time." 

"The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program's pre-packed boxes will help expand distribution of nutritious food to students and families across Michigan," said Diane Golzynski, Director of the Michigan Department of Education's Office of Health and Nutrition Services. "These boxes are a great addition for families supported by student meals and household distribution programs."

"LaGrasso Bros. is thankful for this perfectly timed program with USDA," said LaGrasso Bros. President Tom Lagrasso III. "The USDA Farm to Family Food Box Program is critically important to helping great American farmers, distribution companies, such as LaGrasso Bros., and the families that are economically impacted by the COVID pandemic. LaGrasso Bros. hopes that we can do our part in helping the Michigan economy, Michigan families, and Michigan farmers with this amazing program." 

Additional information about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including a complete list of companies receiving a contract from USDA, is available on the AMS website at

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at and   


On April 17, 2020, USDA announced the Farmers to Families Food Box Program as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed to help farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. 

Through this program, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products, and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.  


Media Contact: Jessy Sielski, 517-284-5725 or

This email was sent to using GovDelivery Communications Cloud on behalf of: Michigan State Police · P.O. Box 30634 · Lansing, MI 48909

Thursday, May 7, 2020

FW: National Farm to School Network COVID-19 Relief Fund - Applications due MAY 10!


Please see information forwarded below about the National Farm to School Network's COVID-19 Relief Fund. The applications are due May 10th!




Colleen Matts

(she, her, hers)

Farm to Institution Specialist

Coordinator, Michigan Farm to Institution Network

Core Partner, National Farm to School Network

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems | 517.432.0310 | |




COVID-19 Relief Fund for Farm to School & Farm to ECE
National Farm to School Network has launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to financially support the ongoing efforts of programs that are helping kids continue to eat, grow and learn about just and sustainable food, and the farmers that continue to produce and supply it. Any organization or producer working to support farm to school / farm to ECE efforts is eligible to apply for a grant of up to $10,000. National Farm to School Network is committed to ensuring these resources reach systematically underserved communities in need and will prioritize organizations that serve and are led by people of color. The first round of applications closes May 10. Learn more and apply at



Visit our COVID-19 and Farm to School/ECE Resource Hub to find resources, policy and advocacy opportunities, and stories of innovation and inspiration happening in community food systems during this global health crisis. 



Jenileigh Harris, MFALP  (she/her/hers)

Program Associate, National Farm to School Network

704.785.6023  | Based in Colorado


Monday, May 4, 2020

Farm to school innovations, solutions, and resilience

May 2020
Dear Michigan Farm to School subscribers,

Education, both in early care and K-12 classrooms, looks different this spring.

As teachers and students adjust to distance learning, we encourage you to think about how you might incorporate farm to school lessons into your virtual classrooms. The news and resources in this edition of our newsletter may offer some inspiration.

MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is continuing to update our list of resources that may be helpful for early care and K-12 education sites looking for food-related resources related to COVID-19, including food assistance, local producer resources, food safety, and guidance on managing stress and anxiety.

Thank you for your continued work for children and families in Michigan. We will continue to stay in communication and provide whatever support we can. Please email us if you have a need that we may be able to help with.
Michigan is the First State to Offer Pandemic EBT
Pandemic EBT is an expansion of SNAP benefits to address emergency food needs for families during the pandemic. Families will receive supplemental benefits equivalent to the cost of school breakfast and lunch for each eligible child. Families not currently receiving food assistance benefits can expect to receive a pre-loaded EBT card – known as a Bridge Card – issued under the name of the oldest student in the household in the mail.

Arizona School District Offering Virtual Gardening Lessons
A school district in Arizona is helping families learn about gardening at home despite school closures. Their videos demonstrating basic gardening skills, like how to plant the garden and harvest food, as well as cooking demonstrations, are encouraging students and their families to create their own gardens at home.

Vermont Schools Offering Frozen Meals at Food Distribution Sites
The Burlington School Food Project has come up with a creative solution to increase the variety of food offered while schools are closed: frozen meals. They are sourcing the ingredients for these meals locally whenever they are able to.

10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Rescheduled
April 27-29, 2021
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Originally scheduled for April 21-23, 2020, the 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference has been rescheduled for April 2021. Current ticket holders will have their registration transferred to these new dates, with an option to change their registration status. Registration for new tickets will open in Fall 2020.

National Farm to School Network’s COVID-19 Resource Hub
The National Farm to School Network has launched a COVID-19 resource page to make it easier to find resources, information, and news to support farm to school and farm to ECE work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Best Practices for Michigan School Food Service Providing Meals During the COVID-19 Outbreak
In early April, the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development developed guidance on best practices for school food service sites that have continued to operate. It is intended to help staff and volunteers make informed decisions as they continue to provide meals safely throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Serving Meals During COVID-19: Sharing Promising Strategies, Tips, and Tricks
This webinar recording from No Kid Hungry features tips from program operators across the United States for providing meals despite school closures and procurement challenges.

Gro More Good Learning Activities for Kids
This is a set of free garden lessons that children and parents can try at home. Based on early childhood education best practices, the series contains 72 hands-on lessons focused on the four seasons of a garden, intended to get children outside to explore and learn

Cultivating Social-Emotional Health with Farm to Early Care and Education
Families and children are confronting stress in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gardening and cooking together can help children develop strong social-emotional skills that can help them cope now and in the future.

Racial Equity in the Food System Webinar: Perceptions, Reality, and the Road Ahead
In this webinar, members of the Racial Equity in the Food System workgroup share findings from a national survey of REFS webinar registrants and discuss how organizations are reaching their equity goals.

COVID-19 and the Crisis in Food Systems: Symptoms, Causes, and Potential Solutions
COVID-19 has increased the opportunity to examine gaps and inequalities in our food systems, noted in this analysis by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

Read more in their analysis of potential solutions in moving together toward a more equitable and just food system.
COVID-19 Emergency School Nutrition Funding
GENYOUth is providing grants of up to $3,000 for schools who need resources for meal distribution and delivery efforts during COVID-19. Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis. Funds may be used to purchase soft-sided coolers, bags and containers for individual servings, protective gear for food service sanitation and safety, or other equipment to help ensure children continue to receive the nutritious meals they need.

Native American Agriculture Fund 2020 Request for Applications
Deadline: June 1

The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAFF) is offering grants to eligible recipients in the mission areas of business assistance, agricultural education, technical support and advocacy services. NAFF will also be accepting applications in four special emphasis areas: Traditional Foods and Food Sovereignty, Advocacy, Agriculture Extension, and Youth.

Share Your Story: Farm to School and ECE During COVID-19
Communities across the country are demonstrating innovation and resilience as they continue to connect children and families to local foods and education opportunities and support local producers. The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) wants to hear from you about what food systems resilience looks like in your community.

If you have a farm to school, farm to ECE, or community food systems story, please share it with NFSN using this brief form.
About Michigan Farm to School

Farm to School centers around efforts to serve local foods in school and early care and education settings. We share ideas, tools and resources to support a range of efforts, from school garden programming to farmer visits and field trips.

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