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Luria pushes USDA for fair share of food relief for Virginians

Elaine LuriaCongresswoman Elaine Luria joined several of her fellow Virginia representatives in a letter to the Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue to express their concerns over the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which gives USDA authority to distribute agricultural products to those in need, but is currently not delivering proportional food assistance as promised to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Virginians deserve their fair share of federal food assistance during these trying times,” said Luria, D-Va. “That’s why I joined my colleague, Congresswoman Spanberger, in calling on the USDA to ensure this food relief is distributed to those in need effectively and efficiently.”

Currently, under the contracts awarded by the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, 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.

The members concluded the letter with several outstanding questions:

  1. What formula did USDA use to decide how to allocate food under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program? Why did USDA choose not to utilize the existing need-based method used by the TEFAP Program?
  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?
  3. Before the first round of contracts, did USDA conduct any outreach to individual food banks or food bank networks to assess their needs, level of increased demand, or any other concerns they might have about the program’s administration? Will USDA commit to conducting outreach to food banks to assess their needs ahead of any future rounds of funding?

The full letter can be found here.

augusta free press
augusta free press