Spanberger Leads Virginia Members in Pushing USDA to Deliver Proportional Food Relief to Virginia Families, Fix Disparities in Distribution to Food Banks
Through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Virginia is Set to Receive Approximately 3 Million Fewer Pounds of Food than Would Have Been Allocated Using the Same Formula as TEFAP
Henrico, June 17, 2020
HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is leading an effort urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deliver proportional federal food assistance to Virginia families in need.
In a letter sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Spanberger and five of her Virginia colleagues demanded answers about the USDA’s food allocation decisions under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and its disproportionate impacts on Virginia families and food banks. The Feeding America food bank network in Virginia is only expected to receive 2.3 million pounds of food relief, which is far less than the amount that would be allocated if the program were administered under the same formula used by The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Had aid been allocated under the TEFAP formula, Virginia would likely receive approximately 5.3 million pounds of food products.
“We write today to express our grave concerns about the distribution of contracts under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “While we sincerely appreciate USDA’s efforts to quickly provide relief to farmers and those without adequate access to food through the creation of the program, we are concerned that the Commonwealth of Virginia has received a disproportionately small share of food through this program under the contracts awarded to date.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm of economic distress and public health concerns for the thousands of families we serve,” said Eddie Oliver, Executive Director, Federation of Virginia Food Banks. “Demand for emergency food has doubled in some communities, and our food banks have been forced to purchase more food than ever before to keep pace with the need. We are grateful for the efforts of Congresswoman Spanberger and the USDA to ensure we have the resources we need to serve high-quality food to our hungry neighbors.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Spanberger has worked to strengthen federal efforts to respond to growing food shortages and heightened demand at food banks. In April 2020, she pressed Secretary Perdue on his Department’s strategy to respond to the urgent needs of U.S. food banks using American produce. Earlier that month, Spanberger helped lead a successful bipartisan push to fix previous USDA guidance that unnecessarily put immunocompromised students at risk during school meal pick-ups.
Spanberger’s letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Elaine G. Luria (D-VA-02), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA-11), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA-03), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10).
Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.
Dear Secretary Perdue,
We write today to express our grave concerns about the distribution of contracts under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. While we sincerely appreciate USDA’s efforts to quickly provide relief to farmers and those without adequate access to food through the creation of the program, we are concerned that the Commonwealth of Virginia has received a disproportionately small share of food through this program under the contracts awarded to date.
Under contracts awarded by the program, it is our understanding that the Feeding America food bank network in Virginia is only expected to receive 2.3 million pounds of food relief. This quantity is far less than the amount that would be allocated if the program were administered under the same formula utilized by The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which distributes food relief proportional to each state’s needs. Had aid been allocated under the TEFAP formula, we would expect Virginia to receive approximately 5.3 million pounds out of the 264 million pounds of product distributed in the first contract period.
We are also deeply concerned that only one food distributor in the state, DeLune Corp, was awarded a contract through the program in the first round of approvals. While we are grateful for the speed with which the first round of awards was distributed, we are concerned that Virginia is currently underserviced by participating distributors. Food banks across Virginia have reported difficulty receiving aid through the program, especially in our rural communities, even as demand for food assistance continues to rise alongside growing unemployment, economic uncertainty, and the ongoing public health crisis.
2. In awarding the first round of contracts, what steps, if any, did USDA take to ensure that all geographic areas were serviced? Will USDA commit that when awarding future rounds of contracts, steps are taken to ensure that all geographic regions are served by the program and receive aid proportional to the region’s need
We are truly grateful for the USDA’s swift actions to set up the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Like many regions, Virginia has seen dramatic increases in the number of those suffering from food insecurity. We believe that the Farmers to Families Food Box Program can be an essential lifeline for those who need it, and we stand ready to help ensure that this critical relief program is administered in a manner that is fair, equitable, and best reflects the needs of communities across the country.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.