December 2, 2020
By Heather Dodge

When COVID-19 shut down restaurants and schools across the country, the USDA stepped in to help redirect food supplies to those who need them through the Farm to Families Program.

Suitable organizations were selected in each state to organize and distribute the food boxes to low income and rural communities. Shamrock was contracted as the vendor for Arizona, and PPEP and the 3000 Club in Tucson were chosen to pick up and deliver the free food boxes to outlying towns in Pima and Santa Cruz counties. 

Since May 15 when the program kicked off, over 118.3 million boxes have been distributed across America. Each box weighs approximately 35 pounds and has enough healthy fresh foods to feed four people for one week. 

Delivered to the Patagonia Senior and Youth Centers every Thursday for the past three months, the boxes did not disappoint. Contents varied but most contained such items as yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, bags of onions, potatoes and apples, mixed fresh fruit and vegetables, and frozen chicken patties.   

As the program winds down, the last two deliveries to Patagonia will be Thursday Dec. 10 and 24 at 2 pm, subject to change due to holidays. Consult the Senior or Youth Center for updates.

PPEP, founded by Dr. John David Arnold in 1967, has been at the forefront of providing much needed goods and services to rural communities in Pima and Santa Cruz counties. PPEP’s established volunteer force has been responsible for loading trucks and driving over 250 miles every Thursday to deliver food boxes to over 4000 people. 

In addition to small town delivery, PPEP has brought food boxes to a group of at-risk high school students in Tucson’s south side, 14 group homes for the developmentally disabled, and some 40 refugees, as well as the Pascua Yaqui tribe. 

PPEP was distributing food during COVID-19 well before the USDA’s involvement. To view their Essential Services / Food Security Report go to PPEP.org and click the button Food Security vs. Covid-19. 

Now that the USDA’s food box program is ending, Dr. Arnold is requesting donations for the continuation of essential food acquisition and distribution via PPEP. The donation link is located at the top of their website, https://www.ppep.org/.