Love in a box. That’s how Easton-based Teddy Bear Fresh Produce describes the 25-pound boxes of produce it delivers across Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

Teddy Bear Fresh was one of 200 distributors selected to help get food from fields to tables through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program. It is in the midst of a second round of deliveries, and owner Mary Salins is proud of their efforts to feed people during this national health crisis.

“It’s an honor to be picked to provide this service representing the Eastern Shore,” Salins says. “But it’s the food pantries who are the real heroes here as they are getting the boxes to the people in need.”

When the COVID-19 public health emergency began, people lost jobs, food distribution chains were disrupted, and many in Talbot County, from consumers to farmers, faced huge challenges. The USDA launched the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which provides new sources of food for the Maryland Food Bank. To be considered, distributors had to apply and were evaluated on past performance, capability, and price, among other criteria.

“Because Teddy Bear Fresh has been involved for years supporting the Maryland Food Bank and the Talbot County CarePacks program, we already had the relationships and knew the need was there,” Salins says.

Prime contractors are responsible for sourcing products, preparing boxes, communicating with distribution centers, and transporting the boxes for distribution. The ability to engage local small farms and the impact to local and regional agriculture was also considered.

Each box contains lettuce, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, apples, onions, and oranges, much of which is sourced locally.

Teddy Bear Fresh was also able to create 18 jobs through this program for people during a time when hundreds were losing them, while also putting fresh food on the tables of those in need. It’s a win for residents and farmers alike.

The second round of funding secures the program through August 31. Salins notes that a third round is expected, and she is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to continue to serve the Eastern Shore.

Teddy Bear Fresh is a family run supplier of produce and dairy products, as well as other food service items, located on Mary’s Court in Easton. The company offers produce for sale to individuals as well as restaurants, schools, health care facilities, and caterers.