SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday plans to expand a program that helps get food to those in need to help California’s food banks suffering an unprecedented strain brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom announced $3.64 million in new funding to expand the Farm to Family program. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide $2.86 million and another $775,000 will come from private donors. Gov. Newsom is looking for additional donors to raise $15 million to support the program through the end of the year.
When farmers face a surplus of product, rather than letting it go to waste, they donate it to people who are struggling to put healthy food on the table. California’s Farm to Family program helps get food donations from farmers to food banks across the state and ultimately to families who are in need.
These new funds will be used to offset the costs of harvesting, packaging, and transporting fresh fruits and vegetables from farms to local food banks across the state, according to the California Food Banks Association.
“Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink,” Gov. Newsom said. “It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks. And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.”
Food banks across the state on average have seen a 73% increase in demand from last year, according to the Governor’s Office. Farmers and ranchers are also reporting a 50% decrease in their market due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Yolo County Food Bank (YCFB) has seen a dramatic increase demand due to the coronavirus, said YCFB Executive Director Michael Bisch.
The YCFB was serving roughly 25,000 people in February and are now serving more than 45,000 people per month. The YCFB receives around 25% of their food through the Farm to Family program.
“So, this boost that the governor is talking about is going to have a huge impact here in our communities in Yolo County,” Bisch said.
Around 128 farmers and ranchers are already donating to the program and now another 200 farmers have expressed interest in participating.
California’s Farm to Family program distributed 18 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to 41 food banks in 58 counties in just the first three weeks of April, that’s up from 14.5 million pounds of food in March, according to the Governor’s Office.
Gov. Newsom said he wants the program to distribute 21 million pounds of food per month for the rest of the year.
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