Farmers to Families Food Box Program faces mixed reaction from lawmakers since implementation

USDA’s Food Box Program was created as part of CFAP to provide fresh meat, dairy, and produce to hungry Americans, but there has been criticism on how it was implemented.

The House Ag Committee held a hearing on the program and lawmakers voiced both frustration and support as they reviewed how well it is working.

House Ag Subcommittee Chair Marcia Fudge outlined some of the major issues with the Food Box Program.

“Since the Farmer to Families Food Box Program was announced on April 17th, several issues have been raised regarding the programs implementation and delivery,” according to Rep. Fudge. “It has been broadly reported that the program fell well short of its initial commitment to provide 40 million boxes of food to food banks, churches, and other non-profit organizations.”

Other reports outline waste and abuse of the contract system.

“Contract recipients have reportedly spent money on lobbying and on PR, instead of diverting the money to more food for the hungry,” Fudge said.

Although, it is not all criticism, several Representatives shared their support, including Rep. Dusty Johnson.

“Farmer to Families works, it has been successful,” he said.

USDA’s Greg Ibach says that feedback is mostly positive, but acknowledges issues exist.

He notes two key requirements for all contracts.

“All commodities purchased, packaged, and delivered are 100 percent domestic origin, and two, no vendor is paid until proof of delivery and compliance of the contract is confirmed,” he said.

The oversight for the program is a little different because of the pandemic. Prices varies due market value and sourcing locally. Later this week the USDA will announce an opportunity for new and current vendors to submit proposals for the next round of funding.