CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — When patrons of the food pantry at Harmony Community Baptist Church walk into the basement on Wednesday mornings, many are overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the food they receive.
“You’ve got the vegetables, you’ve got the fruits, you’ve got white potatoes,” said Michael Taylor, a resident who’s been coming to the pantry in Chicago’s west side Lawndale neighborhood for nearly a year. “And you’ve got the main course — the meat. It doesn’t get better than this.”
Taylor said it feels good to be able to provide fresh milk and balanced meals for his kids. Since the USDA began buying meat, produce and dairy from U.S. farmers last fall, the food people receive from food pantries has been more fresh and more nutritious. But it’s also presented challenges for those who get the food from growers fields to the dinner tables that need it across the country.
The first round of the USDA’s Trade Mitigation food purchase and distribution program was announced in August 2018, as a way of helping farmers hurt by the ongoing trade disputes with China, Mexico and other countries.
As of June 12, the agency purchased $748 million of the promised $1.2 billion in food from U.S. producers, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.