The U.S. Department of Agriculture will roll out its fourth round of food boxes next month as more Americans grapple with a hunger crisis fueled by job losses and economic uncertainty during the pandemic.
The USDA announced Friday it authorized $500 million to fund a fourth round of food purchases for its Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which delivers fresh produce, dairy, milk and meat to Americans in need.
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service partners with national and local farmers and food distributors to buy fresh produce and deliver them to food banks and nonprofits to communities experiencing food insecurity. The last round of food boxes was launched in July, and more than 110 million food boxes have been delivered since May when the first round began delivering the meal kits.
"We recently surpassed 110 million boxes delivered, and millions more are headed to Americans in need,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement.
President Trump in August announced an additional $1 billion would be made available for food deliveries through Oct. 31. The USDA has purchased nearly $3 billion worth of food to date, according to its website.
More than 54 million Americans could soon face food insecurity, according to data from Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger-relief organization. That number is up by a staggering 17 million compared to before the pandemic.
The USDA in April increased monthly SNAP Benefits, the program formerly known as food stamps, across all 50 states and three territories to give Americans in need greater access to food purchases amid the coronavirus.