Food on Foot giving away food boxes

The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program has benefited millions of families in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Lakeway Area, Food on Foot will give away 1,100 USDA perishable food boxes beginning at 11 a.m., this Saturday, Oct. 17, as well as Oct. 24 and Oct. 31.

Unlike the regular Food on Foot boxes, families receiving these boxes are not required to qualify to receive the USDA boxes.

“We had been getting only a few boxes, sometimes 150 every other week during the summer,” Food on Foot Founder and President Carolyn Jarnagin said. “Now they’re sending tractor trailer loads. We’re going to pass them out until they’re gone.”

Jarnagin learned about the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program through Don Owen of God’s Warehouse in Morristown.

“Don is over Disaster Relief for the Nolchucky Baptist Association and God’s Warehouse,” she said. “He is a great supporter for us. He has given us other items. (The USDA) always contacts him if they have food available. It’s because of him that the USDA knows about Food on Foot. It’s because of his kind heart and not wanting to see people suffer during this pandemic is how Food on Foot is getting this food. He knows that the food will go out if it is handled through us.”

Owen learned about the USDA program through one of the Disaster Team’s partners in Chicago.

“One of our partners in Chicago asked if we were familiar with the USDA Food program,” Owen said. “They sent me a list of qualifying counties and Hamblen, Grainger, Hancock, Claiborne, Cocke counties qualify for the program. When they asked how many truckloads we could take, I sent the food to Food on Foot. Carolyn’s group is more qualified to handle food distribution to the needy individual families. Their group will take a truckload each Saturday.

Depending on the size of the truck, there will be 1,200 to 1,300 boxes each Saturday, according to Owen.

Each of the USDA boxes include milk, a bag of potatoes, a bag of apples, yogurt, cottage cheese, celery, squash and chicken meatballs, cooked chicken taco meat, plus other items. Due to the high demand, distribution will begin at 11 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than the regular 11:30 a.m. start time.

As part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Agriculture Secretary 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 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 $4 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.

For more information, call Carolyn Jarnagin at 865-566-5778.