Leahy And Welch Urge USDA To Fix Serious Problems With Latest Farmers To Families Food Box Program Vendor
WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Feb. 12, 2021) — Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Peter Welch on Friday sent a letter to Secretary-designate Vilsack to make him aware that the lowest-bid contract winner of the latest round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program has not been adequately serving Vermont. The letter also asks USDA to award a new contract for March and April to a different vendor who can meet the needs of Vermont households experiencing food insecurity in the wake of the pandemic.
The first two rounds of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program were distributed successfully by the Abbey Group, which was able to complete last-mile distribution to communities throughout Vermont. However, in subsequent rounds contractors were chosen solely based on the lowest bid and advocates began reporting distribution challenges.
The current contract is held by Global Trading Partners and service has been disorganized, inadequate, and opaque. The failures of Global Trading Partners have made the program nearly inoperable in Vermont, leaving hungry Vermonters without the food they need.
In a joint statement, Leahy and Welch said: “Despite Vermont having a well-established network for the F2F program, Global Trading Partners is not utilizing these resources and has failed to communicate even the most basic information to the state and Vermont Foodbank. Our offices learned this week that Global Trading Partners told one local food shelf leader she would need to drive to the next county and wait in line for hours, just for the possibility of receiving boxes when the delivery truck arrived. We are sure you will agree that this is a complete failure on the part of the vendor, which is required under their contract with USDA to provide last mile delivery.”
On Thursday, Representative Welch called Bruce Summers, the Administrator of USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, which administers the program, to ensure that he was aware of the problems. Senator Leahy also spoke with Secretary-designate Vilsack about the Farmers to Families Food Program during his Senate hearing last week.
The full text of the letter can be found here.