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San Antonio Families Cannot Eat an IOU: Calling on Trump Admin to Cancel Food Box Contract with CRE8AD8, Pressing for Answers Nationwide

May 26, 2020

***For Immediate Release***

Press release header

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 26, 2020

Contact: Kate Stotesbery

202-225-4865

 

San Antonio Families Cannot Eat an IOU: Calling on Trump Admin to Cancel Food Box Contract with CRE8AD8, Pressing for Answers Nationwide

Washington, D.C. – With serious food insecurity challenges in San Antonio and across the country, U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-San Antonio), Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, called for the Trump Administration to cancel the $39 million USDA food box contract awarded to a local vendor without relevant experience and pressed USDA for answers on how vendors were chosen nationwide. The details of this local contract were revealed in a series of investigative pieces by Tom Orsborn from the San Antonio Express-News, as well as an editorial from the paper calling for an investigation.

“USDA awarding 198 contracts in a week may have been necessary for an Ivanka Trump photo op but this process failed to protect taxpayers, the hungry, and producers with food going to waste,” said Congressman Doggett, referencing Ivanka Trump’s May 15 visit to a Baltimore food distributor to publicize the program. “We need to tear the lid off the Trump Administration’s inexplicably wrongheaded Families Food Box contracts—awarded under the highest stakes to some firms almost sure to fail to meet hungry families’ needs on time,” Doggett continued. “San Antonio families cannot eat an IOU. USDA needs to cancel CRE8AD8’s contract and we need a full accounting of how the Administration so direly mishandled a necessary and widely-supported program, to the detriment of the most vulnerable.”

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Ivanka Trump, touring a Maryland food distributor on May 15 to publicize the Food to Families box program; photo from the Baltimore Sun.

In his letter today, Doggett wrote: “Images from San Antonio brought national attention to the record number of families facing food insecurity as a result of the economic fallout of the ongoing pandemic.” He continued, “Poor performing, inexperienced contractors risk delaying food delivery or even delivering spoiled, dangerous food to families who need help now.”

Read the full letter here or below:

 

May 26, 2020

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250 

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I write to express my strong objection to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to award Farmers to Families Food Box Program distribution contracts to entities lacking the operational capability to receive, store and distribute requested food for families struggling with food insecurity.

I am specifically requesting that you immediately issue a stop work order for CRE8AD8 in San Antonio, as you have reportedly already done with California Avocados Direct, and that thereafter you promptly cancel this contract.  This contract was issued without a credible background check with a company not licensed to perform and with no work history indicating a capacity to perform at a time of urgent public need for competent delivery. CRE8AD8 was given until June 30 to complete distribution of the 750,000 boxes in a seven-state region, but to date it has apparently failed to distribute a single box. 

Images from San Antonio brought national attention to the record number of families facing food insecurity as a result of the economic fallout of the ongoing pandemic. Those with children represent some of the most impacted – recent reports show two in five households with children 12 and under are food insecure. At a time when families need help the most, USDA should be prioritizing funding for experienced contractors with established community relationships to ensure there are no unnecessary delays to much needed support. A family cannot eat an IOU.  Poor performing, inexperienced contractors risk delaying food delivery or even delivering spoiled, dangerous food to families who need help now.

USDA awarding 198 contracts in a week involved a process which failed to protect taxpayers, the hungry, and producers with food going to waste.  In addition to seeking prompt answers to all of the questions raised by House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs Rep. Stacey Plaskett, Rep. Jim Costa, and Rep. Marcia Fudge in their May 22 letter expressing similar concerns, I seek your responses to the following in order to determine how you are assuring that flaws with other companies do not create similar problems:

  1. How did USDA ensure awardees had established relationships with other supply chain subcontractors needed to execute the Farmers to Families Food Box Program? Describe in full the background check done for each awardee and provide the specific results of your background check on CRE8AD8.  
  2. Prior to awarding contracts, what specific steps, if any, did USDA take to ensure awardees had secured facilities to protect food safety, including refrigerated transportation and storage?
  3. What is USDA doing now to ensure food safety during the contract period?
  4. What actions has USDA taken for awardees who are not fulfilling contractual obligations?
  5. Which Farmers to Families Food Box Program distribution contracts have already been terminated?
  6. Under the contract awarded to CRE8AD8, was there a daily and weekly distribution requirement to ensure families are not waiting on food throughout the approximately six-week contract period?
  7. What steps have already been undertaken, if any, to ensure that families receive the food that CRE8AD8 has been unable to deliver since the program’s distribution period began May 15?

For the sake of those Texans who through no fault of their own rely on these meals, I look forward to your prompt action on this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

Lloyd Doggett

 

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