Equity in Pandemic Aid for Farmers and Food Businesses

By Nicole Sugerman

Throughout the Northeast, organizations we spoke to with Farm to Families Food Box contracts (the component of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that funded food boxes from farmers and distributors to local emergency food programs) expressed their excitement in being able to provide food to families in their communities while providing a market for local farmers. However, many reported losing their contracts in the third and fourth round of contract renewals-- a trend mirrored by the loss of contracts serving smaller farms nationwide-- or declined to reapply because the requirements were too onerous. Small scale producers have expressed a desire to bring the program back to its roots: connecting local farmers with new markets while supporting food insecure families with quality food. 

Nationally, anecdotal evidence suggests the program proved difficult not just for contracts serving local markets, but also for organizations serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers. Similarly, Northeast farmers, including those profiled here, used Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and/or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to maintain crucial staff or fund operating expenses through pandemic-related business hurdles. These programs were hard to access for many BIPOC businesses, in line with historic discrimination in banking and lending. PPP was also criticized for funding large businesses, who exploited program loopholes by applying as franchises or conglomerates, taking funds from the smaller businesses it was designed specifically to assist. 

Learn more about the Farm to Families Food Box program 

Learn more about Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Learn more about Paycheck Protection Program


Read more in How State and Federal Programs Support Farmers, Fishermen, Food Entrepreneurs and Consumers in the Northeast

Photo credit: Melissa Melshenker Ackerman/Produce Alliance