Exclusive with Ivanka Trump: New USDA program aims to help farmers and families in need

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 4:26 PM EDT

LAUREL, Md. (Gray DC) - The U.S. government is buying $4.54 million of food from Coastal Sunbelt Produce and giving it away to people in need.

“It’s just going to make us feel real good around here,” said John Corso, CEO of The Coastal Companies.

The Maryland-based company normally distributes locally grown food to restaurants, hotels and caterers. But with businesses closed, the demand for their food dropped.

“Oh, it was drastic, and it was overnight. It was nothing we have ever seen before,” said Corso.

The Department of Agriculture is buying up to $3 billion in produce, dairy and meat from wholesalers and distributors across the country. They are calling it the Farmers to Families Food Box program.

It starts on the farm. Then, at the distributor, the food is packed into family sized boxes and shipped to food banks and other non-profits.

Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump is helping lead the White House small business recovery effort. She visited Coastal Sunbelt on Friday with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to launch the program.

In her exclusive interview with Gray Television Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro, Trump explained most of the companies chosen are small or regional food suppliers.

“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,” said Trump.

When asked about concerns that some of the smaller distributors chosen for this program might not be equipped to handle the project, Trump said, “For us, we view competition as a great thing. And to help some of these smaller distributors get access to markets and get product to those in need, we view as a very positive thing.”

And the need for food is great right now. The non-profit Feeding America said demand at food banks is up nearly 60%.

The food boxes will be distributed until the end of June.

For a full list of distributors the USDA is buying food from, click here.

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