Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s role in the Farm to Family program.

As the pandemic shut down restaurants this spring, California farmers and ranchers saw their markets drop by half, leaving many with fields full of crops but no buyers. And as millions of people lost their jobs, the state’s food banks needed to triple their food supply.

Fortunately for California, the state had a longstanding initiative tailor-made to help with these twin crises. The Farm to Family program, run by the California Association of Food Banks and supported by the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture, pays farmers to send surplus produce to food banks.

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