WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The U.S. Agriculture Department unveiled a new food distribution program that uses a farmers' extra food to feed hungry people. We've learned a Watertown food distribution company is playing an important role.
With local restaurants closed and colleges shutdown, Renzi Foodservice, like so many other food distributors, lost its core business.
“This pandemic has caused a lot of strain on the food supply chain overall. We do business with many local farmers and local growers and this pandemic has drastically affected their business,” said Jude Renzi, Renzi Foodservice CEO.
In an effort to get the food supply chain back on track, the federal government is implementing the Farm to Family Food Box Program, which will pay local distributors millions of dollars to prepare and ship locally-grown food to local food pantries.
Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump is helping launch the program.
"This was a way to ensure that what they produce could get to market and to those who need it. So we were very excited to be able to fight for the American farmer and rancher which is so in the heart of this President," she said.
Locally, Renzi Foodservice in Watertown has been granted $19 million through the program. It will use that money to send food to dozens of pantries across upstate New York - not just our local pantries, but also pantries in Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo.
Renzi says this program is a win-win.
"Obviously this program was designed to help the farmers with all the excess food they have with the supply chain being shut down; it's meant to help distribution companies and most importantly, it's helping many familes who are struggling with this COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
Renzi Foodservice will make three kinds of boxes - meat, produce and dairy - each containing 20 pounds of goods.
Renzi says he expects to send out between 15,000 and 20,000 boxes each week.
"The food banks and the nonprofits have struggled to get food over the past eight weeks and I think this program is really going to help them. We're looking to see the benefits this provides to farmers and the families and we're just happy to be a part of it," he said.
Renzi says they’re working on manufacturing the food boxes now and will start distributing them next week.