By Guy Page
A Cambridge pastor laments a decision by government officials preventing his church from distributing Farmers to Families food boxes to local needy people.
Mark Fay of Cambridge Christian Fellowship said that during February his church distributed 150-180 food boxes per week on an all-volunteer, unpaid basis.
“We were excited about it,” Fay said. “It was distributed impeccably. There were no strongs attached, we followed all the guidelines. It was all Covid compliant.”
The Farmers to Families (F2F) Food Box Program was begun by the Trump administration to fight pandemic-related food insecurity. Faith-based organizations were welcome to participate. Cambridge Christian Fellowship began in February and wanted to continue in March.
But CCF won’t be participating (at no cost) this month or next because the Vermont Congressional delegation in a Feb. 12 letter to US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack denigrated the distribution effort by Global Trading Enterprises and asked him to “open the contract for rebidding for March and April.” The Congressional delegation claims GTE vastly underserved the Vermont population, “delivering boxes to only seven locations in the entirety of our rural state, in just five of the state’s 14 counties. This will leave nearly 250 towns, and hundreds Vermont families, without the food assistance they were promised under this federal program.”
The letter does not indicate any effort to work with GTE to address the specified problem, or to include current in-state distributors.
Instead: “In selecting a bidder, we ask that USDA take into account past performance of vendors and prioritize those with a proven track record of successful implementation of the program and those with existing local partnerships and distribution networks.”
In other words: Get rid of those Trump folks. Use the organizations we like.
Which is what happened, and quickly. Food-filled tractor-trailers sent to faith-based groups across Vermont in February are this month headed for the Vermont Food Bank – an organization specifically mentioned in the Sanders/Leahy/Welch letter.
The Vermont Food Bank does have a long, excellent record of distributing food to the needy. But Fay said he has heard the change of distributors happened after someone complained to Sanders’ office that churches were involved. “He didn’t even look into how it got distributed,” Fay said. “He didn’t care. He didn’t want the churches doing it.”
Vermont Daily emailed an inquiry to the Sanders press office. Any response from him or the other two Vermont members of Congress will be published. In response to a question by Vermont Daily, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith at today’s press conference said he had heard the distribution program was not reaching enough people. However, he said he welcomes volunteers who want to participate and urged them to contact him. His office can be contacted via email or by phone at (802) 241-0440. The physical address is: 280 State Drive, Waterbury, VT 05671-1080.
Fay, whose contact information is available on the Cambridge Christian Fellowship public website, said he would like Smith to know that “all the churches are ready to do that again.”
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