260 fruit boxes handed out through Farmers to Families program

SAN MIGUEL — The San Miguel Firefighters Association handed out 260 boxes of fruit in about 40 minutes during a drive-by-style giveaway on Friday. The only problem was that they could have given out double that amount. And that may not have been enough.

The fire station sits in the middle of town on Mission Street. The long line of cars, trucks and vans disappeared in the distance around one corner and around the next corner.

“It went really well. We just had more cars than boxes available,” said SMFA President Scott Young. “We asked for three pallets and that went really quickly. Now, we’ll see if four pallets will work out better. We’ll see what we can do. We are happy to help out the community but we can only give out what they give us.”

The firefighters association was assisted by San Miguel Community Services District staff and firefighters at the station.

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The line of cars for the free fruit box giveaway on Friday wrapped around the corner in San Miguel. Photo by Brian Williams

“No charge for the boxes. It’s an outreach to the community,” said Fire Chief Rob Roberson. “It’s first-come, first-served and we try to have enough for everybody but we still have cars showing up.”

They were scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. but started a little early due to the truck dropping the pallets off sooner than the previous week. Nobody in line complained about going sooner and everyone took it in stride when the last box of fruit went out.

Each box contained bags of ripe oranges and stone fruit. The giveaway was part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families program that is connected to churches on the Central Coast.

Pastor Mike Duran, of Fuente de Agua Viva Church in San Miguel, approached the SMFA to see if they could help distribute the fruit boxes. FAV Church is an Assembly of God denomination Christian church.

“He reached out and asked if we could help him on Fridays with the fruit because he had a source for fruit and couldn’t hand it out,” said Michelle Hido, secretary-treasurer of the firefighters association. “Since we are here on Mission Street, it worked out. We have the resources and the safety cones and stuff like that to get the word out.”

Farmers to Families is a USDA program born during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on April 17, USDA is exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need.

Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with national, regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers of all sizes.

The program supplies food boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat products and a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Distributors will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

The first round of purchases totaling up to $1.2 billion occurred from May 15 through June 30. The second round will aim to purchase up to $1.47 billion July 1 through Aug. 31. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.

This was the second week for the local distribution. The firefighters association is planning for another, hopefully with four pallets, at about 4:30 p.m. on July 24. To know for sure, check out their Facebook page.

“Everybody is coming together to help,” Young said. “If we can keep doing it and filling a need, then we are going to keep doing it.”