MIDDLETOWN, NJ: During the pandemic we have seen the good shine through as giving back in many ways continues. In Monmouth County, 20% – 27% of households earn less than $35,000 annually, and the average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment at $1,500 or more a month. One in every four families must pay half of their income or more just for housing. This leads to a balancing act of paying for food, shelter, utilities... Very often there is not much left over to purchase enough food and keep the house warm...

In addition, the pandemic has drastically increased hunger in our communities. 

Fortunately, as more need arises, in many cases we witness that giving increases. Earlier this month, along with its regular meal distribution, the Middletown Township School District food services provider, Whitsons, distributed 500 generous boxes of food to local families.

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These food boxes were courtesy of the Farmers to Families program who partnered with Whitsons, to provide nourishment to those in need during the unprecedented times of COVID-19.  Each of the 500 food boxes distributed included one gallon of milk, chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots, yogurt, cheese and additional food items. 

In addition to the local families that came to pick up meals at the Whitsons regular distribution locations, the culinary group was able to welcome local organizations like Lunch Break and Middletown Helps Its Own to take part in the distribution.

The Farmers to Families program and partnering with Whitsons is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Secretary Perdue announced on April 17, 2020, The USDA is exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need. Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) partners with national, regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $4.5 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers of all sizes. The program supplies boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat products. Distributors like Whitsons 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.

If you would like to know where Farmers to Families Food Boxes will be available in your area or work for a non-profit food assistance agency interested in distributing Farmers to Families Food Boxes, you can find information about food box distributors and the areas they serve at https://www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda/farmers-to-families-food-box/approved-contractors-round-four.