USDA program to provide food to Dubois County

Photos courtesy Holland United Methodist Church Facebook


Dubois County residents will have the opportunity to stock their kitchens this week with free boxes of produce and dairy.

Several churches and nonprofits have teamed up to host food distribution days through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program. Events will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper on Wednesday and at Holland United Methodist Church on Sunday. The giveaways offer a box of Prairie Farms dairy products and a 25-pound box of produce from farms throughout the Midwest.

To receive the food, people need only show up at one of the distribution locations and pick up one or both boxes. There is no paperwork to fill out or income restrictions. Mike Hagerdon, parish catechetical leader at St. Joe’s, stressed that although many of the organizations helping with the events are churches, the service is not tied to any faith or congregation. It is for everyone.

“We know there is a need in our county,” he said. “It’s not a faith issue. It’s a humanitarian issue.”

The Farmers to Families Food Box program is part of the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that was enacted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The program is purchasing food from farmers and processing facilities and distributing it to families free of charge through partnerships with local nonprofit organizations. The products would otherwise go to waste due to food supply chain disruptions brought on by business closures and stay-at-home orders enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To make the program work, the USDA is relying on local USDA offices and agriculture organizations to connect nonprofits in their communities with the program. Ashley Sudbury, the Purdue Extension Community Wellness Coordinator for Dubois County, helped bring the program to Dubois County and has been part of planning the behind-the-scenes logistics for the distributions. It’s a large undertaking due to the large quantities of food that will be distributed and the large crowds expected at the events. The event at St. Joe’s will distribute 1,000 boxes of dairy products and 1,000 boxes of produce, while the Holland event will distribute 500 boxes of each.

“You’re looking at semi loads of refrigerated items,” Sudbury said.

Social distancing guidelines must also be followed. At drop-off locations, participants will need to pop their trunks, and volunteers will place the boxes in the cars to minimize contact between volunteers and those picking up food. Sudbury described the system as “truck to trunk.”

In Jasper, St. Joe’s, Tri-Cap and Redemption Christian Church teamed up to host the event, which will begin at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and continue until supplies run out. Organizers ask that participants enter St. Joe’s parking lot from East 13th Street.

St. Isidore Catholic Parish will pick up boxes from St. Joe’s to distribute around the northeast corner of the county, and Christ the King Parish will pick up boxes to distribute in Ferdinand and the surrounding communities. Christ the King will distribute its boxes in the parking lot of its Ferdinand office, 341 E. 10th Street beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and running while supplies last. Participants are asked to enter the parking lot from 10th Street.

In Holland, volunteers from the local church congregations will distribute food boxes from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday at Holland United Methodist Church, 205 N. Second Avenue.
“We’re hoping for a big crowd, but we don’t know what to expect,” said Bev Schmutzler with Holland UMC.

Ron Henke, another organizer of the Holland event, expects a large crowd. He attended a distribution event in St. Meinrad two weeks ago and said cars were lined up through town with people hoping to receive a box.

Hagerdon also expects the Jasper distribution to be a success. Based on what he’s heard about other distribution events, he expects to run out of boxes at St. Joe’s within a couple of hours.

If all goes well, organizers of both distribution sites plan to hold events again. Under the program, distribution days can be held as often as every two weeks through August. The tentative dates for future distributions are July 8, July 22, Aug. 5 and Aug. 19 at St. Joe’s, and July 12, July 26, Aug. 9 and Aug. 23 at Holland UMC.

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