Sonny Perdue, Ivanka Trump tout Farmers to Families Food Box program at State Farmer’s Market

Ivanka Trump speaks at a Farmers to Families Food Box program event at the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh. Photo via Robert Clark, North State Journal

RALEIGH – On Sept. 10, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh as part of the Trump administration’s Farmers to Families Food Box distribution program. The program, in which Perdue and Trump also participated in two weeks ago in Henderson County, has delivered over 100 million meals across the country.

In a statement, Ms. Trump said, “With over 100 million meals delivered to date, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program continues to serve and innovate in remarkable ways to feed our nation’s most vulnerable. By making this technology available through USDA, we are enabling those most in need access to fresh, locally-sourced meat, dairy and produce for their families. The Secretary and I are thrilled to be able to highlight these efforts in the great state of North Carolina!”

Ivanka Trump, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Congressman David Rouzer, and N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler talk with Ronnie Lee of Lee’s Produce at the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. Photo via Robert Clark, North State Journal

Joining Perdue and Trump today were N.C. Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Congressman David Rouzer.

Before remarks to a small crowd of invited guests, Perdue, Trump, Troxler, and Rouzer walked through the market and made several stops to talk to the vendors and families who sell produce at the market.

The foursome spent nearly 30 minutes talking and taking pictures – including a long conversation about tomatoes at Lee’s Produce of Meadow in Johnston County. Ronnie Lee, the owner of the family-run farm, even received a shout out from Ms. Trump during her remarks to the crowd later.

Ronnie Lee, who owns Lee’s Produce, said he has been at State Farmer’s Market since 1990 and farms 250 acres.
 
“I’m not used to speeches, I’m used to being on a tractor,” said Lee. He told those gathered that for years, restaurants would come pick vegetables and fruits at his farm until the pandemic began, and the Farmers to Families Food Box program had been invaluable to his business.

Commissioner Troxler kicked off the official proceedings, saying that the Farmer’s Market is a dynamic hub and valuable resource for fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, and flowers. In introducing Secretary Perdue, Troxler said he needed “no introduction” given how often he has been to the state in his tenure.

“This farmer’s market is a jewel,” said Perdue.

The Secretary highlighted what he called the Farmers to Families Food Box program’s “win-win-win” aspects because it helped farmers, distributors, and families who were hurting.

Today’s event was Perdue’s third of the day in North Carolina. Earlier, he participated in a broadband connectivity announcement in Moore County and joined Farm Bureau members for a roundtable discussion in Harnett County.

Perdue then welcomed Ivanka Trump to the stage, saying, “It’s been a joy for me to work with her on this program and seeing her enthusiasm.”

Trump said the ability to bring the country’s produce to those in need was important.

“There were people struggling at every end of the spectrum from farmers to distributors to families who had never been to a food bank before. A program of this scale to be mobilized so quickly is incredible,” said Ms. Trump.

Today’s event also highlighted a new aspect of the program – the ability for SNAP recipients to shop at over 3,000 local markets to buy local produce. Perdue said a pilot program will also be launched, which will include online ordering and the ability to have produce delivered.

Trump also highlighted the efforts of the faith community in helping the distribution networks to get food boxes to those in need.

Commissioner Troxler closed the formal remarks, saying he had “Seen first-hand how successful this program has been to the farmers and families in the state.”

Trump said, “Hopefully I’ll be back many times in the weeks and years ahead.”

Perdue and Trump then joined workers from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to help pack boxes on a truck parked by the stage and set to go to a local food bank for delivery.