Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I have some tea to report. This is very important tea and it involves a Trump Food program that is in a dire situation.
The Farmers to Families Food Box program, which was launched by the Trump administration in May to support struggling farmers and feed jobless Americans battered by the pandemic. It was supposed to provide food support through the end of the year. But because of soaring demand and a shortage of federal money, it is ending a month early in many regions of the country, leaving tens of thousands of families without a critical supply of food.
The $4.5 billion food program that has kept millions of Americans fed through the pandemic is running out of money.
The program has gone through four rounds of funding since it began this spring: $1.2 billion in contracts were awarded in the first round then, $1.76 billion in the second, and $1 billion in the third. The fourth round was cut to $500 million. The USDA, in a statement, acknowledged that the amount of funding in that last round, which covered November and December, “resulted in some non profits being unable to participate and fewer box deliveries.”
But the USDA added that many nonprofit organizations chose to receive the boxes at a higher rate earlier in the program with the understanding that this would deplete supplies for the last two months of the year. But multiple nonprofit organizations interviewed by The Washington Post said that they were not apprised of the limited food resources for this round.
The program paid large food distributors to supply food boxes to nonprofits running food lines across the country. The smaller $500 million award for the program’s fourth phase has left some communities that took part in the spring and summer without a critical source of food this winter. The Adirondack region of New York, for example, received food for the first three rounds but was not selected for the final round, according to John Bernardi of the United Way of the Adirondack Region.
“That left a palpable void. The turnout had been unbelievable through the spring and summer. The boxes were really outstanding, with fresh food, meat and dairy,” Bernardi said. “This has left the food pantries overwhelmed.”
The unexpected shortfall in the Farmers to Families Food Box program could be the first of several hits facing food banks across the country this winter.
The Food Purchase and Distribution Program, a component of the Trump administration’s aid to farmers who were suffering from the trade war with China, allocated $7.1 billion for direct food purchases for food assistance. The initiative bought commodity foods directly from farmers and distributed those goods to food banks. It ends December. 31st.
These two programs accounted for 1.7 billion of the 5 billion meals distributed by Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, according to Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, the organization’s chief executive.
Currently, there is about $236 million in USDA funding is available for states to spend as part of the Emergency Food Assistance Program, a much smaller federal program that provides low income Americans with emergency food assistance at no cost. But it is unclear how, or how swiftly, states could utilize these funds to make up for the loss of food boxes or other federal aid.