CityServe International’s work alongside Farmers to Families has contributed to 10% of the total program distribution


Press Release: JDA Worldwide for CityServe International
Sept. 20, 2023

BAKERSFIELD, CA – Legislation introduced in Congress today would reinstate, and make permanent, elements of the vital food distribution program that supplied fresh fruits and vegetables to millions of families nationwide during the global coronavirus pandemic. Titled the “Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act of 2023,” the bill was introduced on Wednesday by Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

“We need to ensure our food insecure residents in the Central Valley have access to the fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables we grow right in our own backyard,” said Congressman Valadao. “This bill not only helps our neighbors in need, but it also helps our domestic agriculture sector by ensuring the produce they grow is being put to good use. I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that will strengthen our agriculture economy and make fresh produce more widely available to those in need.”

The new bill seeks to replicate key components of the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, an initiative hailed as an outstanding success by both parties’ leaders during the darkest days of the pandemic. CityServe International, a global nonprofit based in Bakersfield, California played a pivotal role in the Food Box Program by mobilizing its church-based distribution network.

CityServe’s Faith-Based Community for Farmers to Families has distributed:

  • Over 17.3 million food boxes (10% of the total program distribution)
  • 487 million pounds of food
  • 406 million meals
  • Over $813 million in gifts-in-kind

“We applaud this bold, bipartisan initiative to support both families and farmers,” said Dave Donaldson, CityServe’s CEO. “Some values transcend party lines, and keeping kids from going hungry is one of them. The new bill is a win-win for America as it employs a proven approach to food distribution to families who live in the ‘last mile of need’ and do not have regular access to nutritionally-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables.”

The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act of 2023 is modeled in part after the Farmers to Families Food Box program that played such a vital role in getting food to tribal lands, rural areas, low-income seniors, and the disabled following the wave of restaurant shutdowns and food shortages in 2020 and 2021. The program, which enjoys bipartisan support, prompted Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin to comment in April 2021, “When it comes to the food box program, I think the [USDA] got it right!”

Now, Rep. DeLauro’s bill seeks to establish the program as a regular part of the USDA food-assistance effort.

Donaldson also hailed the legislation for blazing a trail toward someday ending food insecurity in America.

“The ‘last mile of need’ is the hardest to reach. But now, with this bill’s special emphasis on nutritious fruits and vegetables as essential to sound health and development, we can hope and pray for a day when every family can be well-fed.”

This metaphorical region defines a subgroup of people with food needs that are often unmet for a variety of reasons.

Individuals and families in the “last mile of need” share, but are not limited to, one or more of the following challenges:

  • Inability to get to food lines due to health or lack of dependable transportation
  • Lack of awareness of available feeding programs
  • Household resources are insufficient, but its scarcity is not enough to qualify for assistance

Donaldson explained that Rep. DeLauro’s proposal not only supports families in need but is a major boon to family farms as well. Unlike other supplemental food programs, it sources fresh produce grown from farms as close to the distribution point as possible.

“Buying local reduces transportation costs, but it also ensures families are getting the freshest, most nutritious foods possible,” Donaldson explains. “And that local demand is a lifeline to many local farmers.”

DeLauro’s legislation amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, calling on it “to provide fresh produce to individuals facing food and nutrition insecurity.” Its objectives include increasing low-income households’ access to a variety of fresh produce and strengthening local and regional food supply chains.