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The York County Food Bank modified its distribution program to include a drive-thru to minimize human contact during the Coronavirus pandemic. York Dispatch

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York County food banks struggling to meet increased demand will be getting a boost through a new U.S. Department of Agriculture program that is expected to provide organizations with thousands of fresh food boxes come June, officials said.

The USDA, which estimates it will spend $300 million each month on the Farmers to Families Food Box program, is contracting with agricultural producers to provide fresh meat, dairy and produce to be distributed to regional food banks and nonprofits across the country.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is working with the USDA as a liaison to help distribute food boxes to local organizations, including the York County Food Bank, New Hope Ministries and the York Benevolent Association. 

"It's wonderful for farmers and for food producers," said Joe Arthur, executive director for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. "It's also a win for people in need because it's great, healthy food."

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While farmers are grappling with excess product going to waste due to losing school and restaurant clients during the COVID-19 pandemic, food banks are struggling to meet increased demand, Arthur said.

The program will report the contractors by mid-May and begin distributing the food boxes by early June, Arthur said.

Arthur, who estimates receiving upward of 10,000 food boxes through the USDA's program, said the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, with its large storage facilities, can handle massive quantities of boxes better than local food banks can.

"It'll be a very large help for the crisis response," he said. "This will be an additional healthy food box that will have all this great, fresh dairy and meat products."

Likewise, Jennifer Brillhart, president and CEO of York County Food Bank, said that through this new program, her organization will be able to better serve a growing community of people who need assistance. 

"The intent is really good, and it's a great way to make sure we're helping out farmers and at the same time providing additional food items to those in need," she said.

Brillhart said individuals requesting services at the York County Food Bank have jumped by 400% since March.

In response to this growing demand, the York County Food Bank expanded to a second location, at 1094 Haines Road in Springettsbury Township.

"We needed to step up and be there for the community," Brillhart said. "It's just not possible to meet the demands at our current location."

Food bank distributions take place from 3 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the Springettsbury location and from 3 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday at the food bank's original location, 254 W. Princess St. in York City. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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