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Volunteers and pallets of food occupy the center lane at the Foodshare March 6 held at the Putnam Middle School parking lot. Vehicles formed two lanes, on either side of the volunteers, stopped their cars, popped the trunk for volunteers to load the food box and off they went. Like clockwork. Linda Lemmon photo.

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By Linda Lemmon
Town Crier Editor
While there are some differences to be worked out between the recently passed Senate version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the House’s version, renewed funding for the USDA Farmer to Families Food Box program is not likely to be touched.
Thousands of this region’s residents have benefitted from the current program which runs out in April, according to Bruce Hay, second vice president of the Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse. Each week more and more residents flock to the drive-thru program, receiving one or two 30-pound boxes of food.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 contains some “$3.6 billion (about 35 percent of total agricultural expenditures) for USDA to purchase and distribute agricultural commodities and fund COVID-19 mitigation efforts for agricultural and supply chain workers.”
The federation added: “Similar efforts through the Farmers to Families Food Box program have resulted in the delivery of over 140 million food boxes including dairy products, fluid milk, fruits, vegetables and pre-cooked meats. This package differs in that the food donation efforts are now expected to also include other distribution channels such as restaurants and food-related entities that can receive, store, process and distribute food items.”
In addition, the federation said: “Other efforts to protect the food and agricultural supply chain include $300 million for animal monitoring and surveillance efforts for the incidence of SARS–CoV–2. For example, mink and cats are more likely to expose humans to the viral strain that causes COVID-19 in humans. Another $100 million is appropriated to reduce fees associated with overtime inspection costs at federally inspected small and very small meat, poultry and egg processing facilities.”
The region’s Foodshare program was the brainchild of Tom Pandolfi, president of the Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse. Hay said it was started in September 2019 for veterans and the general population was added this year.
Some 1,200 30-pound boxes of food are distributed at each Foodshare event in Putnam. It’s free and open to all.
With military precision, the Foodshare event March 6 quickly dispensed 1,200 30-pound boxes of food. Free.
Hay said 575 vehicles came through the drive-through food giveaway held outside at the Putnam Elementary/Middle schools complex. Volunteers directed cars up the driveway and then split them off into two parallel lanes. In between were volunteers and pallets of food boxes. Cars paused briefly, popped the trunks, volunteers loaded the boxes and on to the next car. Hay said although the start time was 10 a.m. they started earlier to make sure the line didn’t spill over onto Wicker Street.
Boxes, according to Hay, contain 5 pounds of potatoes, 5 pounds of apples, 3 pounds of onions, 4 pounds of pre-cooked poultry, 1 pound of hot dogs, a gallon of milk, a pound of cheese and containers of yogurt.
Putnam Mayor Barney Seney said he was pleased with how well it went.
Volunteers this round came from the Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse, the town of Putnam, the Putnam American Legion Post 13, the Putnam VFW Post 1523, the Putnam Business Association, Northstar Mortgage, the Putnam and Danielson Lodges of Elks and Rawson Materials. Hay said the Elks took 40 boxes to take to shut-ins.
The next Foodshare is Saturday, March 20 at the schools. Free. All welcome. (be sure to wear your masks). In addition, between 9 and 10 a.m. every Tuesday some 100 30-pound boxes are distributed from the Putnam Farmers Market on Kennedy Drive with volunteers from the Putnam American Legion, the Putnam VFW and the Coffeehouse. Be sure to wear your masks.


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