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A federal agency has approved a Missouri Department of Social Services request to distribute foods to needy families affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Using its Disaster Household Distribution program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide food for Missourians who qualify through May 7, according to a DSS news release.

The program is expected to serve more than 90,000 Missourians, and will provide food for people in elderly households, households that include residents with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to severe illness or death related to COVID-19, and the recently unemployed.

Each food package weighs approximately 25 pounds and contains vegetables, fruits, pasta/rice/starch, protein and dairy products.

Food banks and food pantries are to distribute the food throughout Missouri. The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri will distribute the food locally, according to Seth Wolfmeyer, food bank coordinator for communication and marketing.

"The change gives the Food Bank more flexibility to distribute USDA food, and we are currently working through the details on how this will impact our services," he said.

The Food Bank is scheduled to speak with state officials today to hammer out details of the distribution effort, he said.

"More Missourians than ever are struggling to keep food on the table, and we believe Disaster Household Distribution will help meet that crucial need so no one will go hungry," acting DSS Director Jennifer Tidball said in the release. "Our community partners will be working extremely fast to help get these food packages into the hands of those in crisis. Food bank and food pantry staff and volunteers are also able to maintain social distancing protocols to keep everyone safe, thanks to the USDA relaxing administrative requirements."

Under a presidential declaration of a national emergency, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service may approve state requests for Disaster Household Distributions for targeted areas to meet specific needs when traditional channels of food are unavailable and not being replenished on a regular basis, according to the USDA website. The program provides boxed foods to households using existing inventories of USDA-purchased foods.

USDA has approved targeted DHD programs for multiple states and Indian Tribal Organizations.

For more information on food banks or food pantries, visit feedingmissouri.org or the Missouri Services Navigator at mo.servicesnavigator.org.

The Missouri Services Navigator offers information on more than 2,000 programs and services available in the state. Missourians in need of information on SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, child care subsidy or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefit programs can visit dss.mo.gov. Missourians can also apply for those services 24/7 online by visiting mdss.mo.gov.

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