As more Americans go so hungry that shoplifting of food is on the rise, the president is about to let his Farmers to Families program lapse on December 31. That program has supplied food to needy families during the Covid-19 pandemic, but some states are already running out of funding for it, the Washington Post reported.
Trump announced Farmers to Families as part of the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in April of 2020, and it launched the next month. It has brought fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat from American farms to low-income neighborhoods and food banks, delivering more than 125 million food boxes between May and December.
The program has also raised questions. House Democrats have launched an investigation into how the funding was used and whether food boxes were given to the intended recipients.
And a coalition of Black farmers says they were left out of the most recent rounds of contracts in favor of larger companies like Sysco, leaving many Black farmers with excess product and areas of the country without enough produce, according to Civil Eats. “When we no longer had a contract [from USDA] it wasn’t like [the Black farmers] got a call from one of these other suppliers. They were just left out. There was a big void that was left,” Cornelius Blanding, the executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which represents Black farmers and landowners, told Civil Eats.
If the program’s funding is not renewed, it will leave many Americans high and dry for the holiday season and beyond. And food pantries are already feeling it. Northern New York stopped receiving Farmers to Families boxes entirely since August, months before the program was scheduled to run out, WCAX 3 reported.
According to Feeding America, a hunger relief non-profit, the US is seeing record levels of child hunger, and as many as 17 million children will experience food insecurity this year alone. And the organization projects that 15.6 percent of American households are without enough food, a more than four percent increase over 2015. This uncertainty and lack of supplies is pushing American families — and food banks — to the limit.
As Robin Bialecki, who works on Massachusetts food drives, told ABC 7, “Every distribution we are running is out of food, and I am calling suppliers, and I’m calling food banks like, ‘We need more food.'”