Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA’s intention to purchase up to $6 million of fresh tomatoes for federal food nutrition assistance programs.
“USDA has been carefully monitoring the situation in Florida in order to determinate how we can help growers get through the very difficult situation caused by the freeze earlier this year,” said Vilsack. “The purchase announced today will provide Florida fresh tomato farmers with some relief, stimulate the economy, and provide high quality, nutritious food to people in need.”
Each year, USDA purchases a variety of nutritious food products to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.
Industry estimates suggest about two-thirds of the tomato crop in the major southwestern production region was destroyed because of eight days of sub-freezing temperatures in Florida during January. Growers in Florida replanted after the freeze which, in addition to scheduled plantings, has led to a surplus of tomatoes.
Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthy and nutritious. Food items are normally required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. The commodities must meet specified grade requirements and be USDA-certified to ensure they meet government standards of quality. USDA purchases only commodities produced in America.
Source: USDA news release