Farm to Families Food Box

Scores of people lined up Thursday morning to receive free produce at the Lee S. Jones Convention Center in Eddyville through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Above, (from left) Ben Woosley, Dale Hawkes and Magistrate Quinn Sutton help load boxes of food into vehicles.

It took a little more than three hours last Thursday to distribute 1,712 boxes of free produce to people lined up at the Lee S. Jones Convention Center in Eddyville.

The non-stop loading in the sweltering summer heat was made possible through the county’s participation in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The demand was so great that there was no produce left for a planned second distribution from 5 to 8 p.m.

Lyon County Magistrate Quinn Sutton, PVA Christie Cruce, former e-911 Director Dale Hawkes, Jason Thompson of the county road department and Ben Woosley of Princeton loaded box after family-sized box into the beds of trucks, backs of SUVs and trunks and seats of cars from 9 a.m. until a little after noon. Vehicles were already lining up before 8:30 a.m.

“Man, it is hot,” said Sutton, drenched in sweat just a bit after a 11 a.m. “It’s been pretty steady; there was a little lull, but the line never stopped.”

The Farmers to Families Food Box Program was approved in mid-April as part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support American producers and communities in need with surplus stocks, the program was created to purchase up to $1.2 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products.

Marjon Specialty Foods of Plant City, Florida, provided the produce for last week’s distribution in Lyon County. The company won a $14.7 million contract with the USDA.

Ultimately, 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.

Last week’s distribution was part of a second round of 10.3 millions boxes of food to be distributed through Aug. 31. The first round offered 35.5 million boxes nationwide.

Judge-Executive Wade White said a second local distribution could happen in two or three weeks.