Congressman Panetta, Nutrition Subcommittee Members Demand Information, Documents from USDA on Mismanagement of Food Box Program

October 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), House Agriculture Nutrition, Oversight, and Departmental Operations Subcommittee Chair Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) and their fellow members of the subcommittee sent a letter Friday demanding answers from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on a range of issues and questions to which USDA has yet to respond to the Committee.  In particular, Congressman Panetta and his fellow members raised concerns about the operation and implementation of USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program.

In the letter, the lawmakers officially requested a range of materials related to oversight of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, many of which are outstanding requests to which USDA has yet to respond.  These include information about the vendors and non-profits chosen to receive contracts and participate in the program; responses to official questions asked by the Subcommittee of USDA; the commitments made by each contractor for the delivery of food boxes; details on how contractors accomplish “last-mile” delivery of food boxes; information related to allegations that certain vendors misled USDA in the process of applying for contracts under the program; and how USDA plans to audit the program to confirm that food boxes were in fact delivered according to the contracts awarded.

 “By rushing the Farmers to Families Food Box Program out the door, it, unfortunately, quickly became inequitable and inefficient.  As a member of the House Agriculture Nutrition, Oversight, and Departmental Operations Subcommittee, my job is to ensure that the USDA addresses the operation and implementation issues with this program,” said Congressman Panetta.  “This letter is the first of many steps we’ll take to try to get the USDA to not just acknowledge but also fix the problems of this program so that the USDA can live up to its mission to ‘do right and feed everyone'.”

 “At every opportunity, the USDA has chosen to delay and hold up this Subcommittee’s review and oversight into this program,” the lawmakers wrote, calling attention to several ways USDA is stonewalling the ability of the Subcommittee to review the operation of the program.

Furthermore, Congressman Panetta, Chairwoman Fudge, and their fellow Subcommittee members criticized USDA in the letter for the Department’s continued mismanagement of the program:

“In the first two rounds of FFFB contracts, USDA awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to companies with no prior food experience, with food banks reporting that some boxes of food contained spoiled food and that many contractors did not coordinate ‘last mile’ distribution to deliver the boxes to hungry families,” wrote the lawmakers.  “Instead of working with Congress to remedy these concerns, USDA threw another $1 billion into the program and managed to create even more problems for food banks, distributors, and hungry families.”

A copy of the letter is available here.