Farmers to Families Food Box adds $1 billion to program; lawmakers question if people in need are getting the food

Food banks: USDA program helped but better ways to meet need
Food banks: USDA program helped but better ways to meet need(Charlie Neibergall | AP)
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 11:59 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON.DC (WITN) - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved up to $1 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Earlier this week, USDA reached a milestone of having distributed more than 90 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These contract awards will go to vendors who submitted the strongest proposals in support of American agriculture and the American people. The high level of interest and quality of proposals are a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended,” said Secretary Perdue.

But many lawmakers and food bank organizers have been critical of the program saying it is not feeding those who are out of work and most in need during the pandemic.

Some Democratic members of Congress have turned against food boxes altogether. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., recently announced that the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will investigate mismanagement in the program.

At a hearing on food boxes in July, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, complained that the USDA couldn’t answer basic questions about it. “Who’s getting the food? Are they giving [recipients] rotten food, which is what I’m hearing in some of these instances. We have none of these answers,” Fudge said. “This is fraught with waste, fraud and abuse.”

There’s a better way to do this, she said: Expand SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — which delivers benefits electronically and allows people to buy the food they need at grocery stores. They added, most independent observers agree that the SNAP program is a much more efficient mechanism for delivering food aid.

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