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Fudge Critical of Food Box Program Following Hearing

WASHINGTON (July 21, 2020) – Ohio Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, Chair of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, released this statement following today’s hearing to review USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program:

“The Subcommittee held today’s hearing to determine whether or not USDA is operating the Farmers to Families Food Box program in a way that feeds the most people, and responsibly and equitably spends the money allocated to the program. I have grave concerns about both of these areas.

“First, because USDA has rushed this program out the door, there is very little quality control with regard to who gets these contracts and who is qualified to actually meet the need. Tens of millions of dollars have gone to inexperienced contractors that still haven’t delivered anywhere near what they’ve promised. As one food bank executive explained today, if USDA had gone through established and capable channels, this problem could have been avoided. This is a humanitarian effort, not a gravy train.

“Second, because of that same hasty approach from USDA, there is still the ‘last-mile’ issue of actually getting food into the hands of those who need it, and as we heard today, food pantries and charities are having to foot the bill to make sure people get the food that the program promised to provide. This program must relieve hardships on overburdened charities like food pantries, not create them.

“Finally, we heard from food bank experts on the ground that USDA’s lack of planning and strategy on the program has led to inexplicable decisions and policies with regard to how funds are distributed, the regions into which the country is divided in terms of food distribution, and other problems. Despite these issues, USDA has refused, to date, to provide any insight or background on how these decisions are being made, and what quality control, if any, exists to correct them if they’re wrong.

“Just yesterday we saw that an additional 6 million people applied for SNAP. As our food bank experts told us today, hunger isn’t going away; it’s getting worse. This program was meant to help people, but not only am I afraid that isn’t happening fast enough, I worry USDA isn’t taking the operation of this program seriously enough to ensure it can happen at all.”
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