U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith praised the award of a $10.3 million contract to the Hattiesburg-based Merchants Foodservice to package surplus foodstuffs for use by food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits groups serving those in need.
Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the Famers to Families Food Box Program contract will help Merchants Foodservice continue operations, while also benefitting farmers and families in need. The economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have stressed foodservice companies like Merchants, which employs 900 people in 12 states.
“Foodservice companies have been hit hard with the closing of restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. This significant contract will relieve some of that pressure for a Mississippi company and its workers, while also benefitting agricultural producers and families who need help during this economic downturn,” Hyde-Smith said. “I’m pleased Merchants Foodservice has been selected to participate in this beneficial program.”
Hyde-Smith, who also serves on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, wrote a letter of support for the Merchants Foodservice application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Merchants Foodservice contract will allow the company to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat products for family-sized boxes for distribution to food banks. The contract details $1, 656,200 to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables; $1,740,960 for dairy products; $6,282,180 for precooked meat (chicken and pork); $61,040 for combination boxes (produce, dairy, and meat); and $613,624 for fluid milk.
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service awarded $1.2 billion through 200 contracts, which are intended to help those in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020. Contracts may be extended, depending on program effectiveness and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.