FARGO — Food boxes have started rolling into food banks as a part of the Farmers to Families Food Box program funded by Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

These boxes are filled by national, regional and local producers that have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Farmers to Families Box program was implemented to not only help producers who are struggling with a product surplus but also those in need of food assistance during the pandemic and the resulting financial struggles from it.

The overall attitude towards the program has been nothing but positive, explained Mike Davidson, operations director of the North Country Food Bank in Crookston, Minn.

“People have been really appreciative of the program and it has been really positive so far,” Davidson said.

The boxes received by the banks are directly from distributors, vendors and producers that have partnered with the program. Each box is full of produce, protein or dairy products. The North Country Food Bank has received over 3,300 boxes filled with protein and 600 boxes filled with dairy products.

In addition, an estimated eight to nine semi-trucks of produce will be distributed each week in the month of June to various food banks, totaling in over 1 million pounds of produce.

In Fargo, 1,600 boxes were distributed in one day by the Great Plains Food Bank, explained Jared Slinde, the food bank's communications manager. Another distribution date will take place in Fargo on June 18.

The program has been so popular, some banks are wishing they could have received more boxes. Part of the program's popularity is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a sharp rise in unemployment, there has been a bigger need for food assistance, ultimately, making the boxes a sought after item.

"There are lots of high quality food items in these boxes," said Slinde, adding to their rise in popularity.

Food banks expect a rise in the need of food assistance in the upcoming summer months within their communities and hope that these boxes will help with that demand.

Food banks have been implementing designated pick up areas, where an individual’s car will be loaded with the boxes they need. Pick up areas and times differ from bank to bank. However, most banks allow cars to begin lining up an hour before the set distribution time. All those in need are encouraged to partake in the program, as there is no income requirement to receive assistance.

"We're happy to be doing it. It's going to do a lot of good for a lot of people," Slinde said.

Great Plains Food Banks distributions will take place in Bismarck, Grand Forks and Fargo, N.D., Moorhead, Minn., and many other locations. For a detailed list of locations and times of distribution, please visit: Farmers to Families Box Program.

For those who are interested in a box, please contact your local food shelf or food bank.