Churches pushed out of food box distribution

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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.”

  1. Remarkably interesting. Just got a public comment from Burlington Republican Chairman Christopher Arron-Felker, who said: “Ericka Redic is still a…

Categories: Covid-19

10 replies »

  1. This is a very sad situation. Because I bet there are people that would much rather go to a church than to the Vermont Food Shelf for food help!!!

    So sad this had to get political!!!!😪

  2. I have been a volunteer with the Vermont Food Bank for 5 years; they do a top-notch job and I am proud to be a part of the team. If an organization has not fulfilled their obligations and are vastly under-serving communities, that should be addressed. GTE had the same problems in northern New York; is it the “leftist’s” fault there as well. That posters are making this political is beyond the pale. It is actually pretty pathetic. Do your homework, please.

  3. I was extremely frustrated to see the article on Vermont Daily Chronicle that informed us that churches are no longer needed to help with distribution of Farmers to Families Food Box Program started by former President Trump and open to faith-based organizations to participate – as stated in the article. It seems the only reason for pulling this out of the churches was quoted as “GTE vastly underserved the Vermont population”. What would that have to do with churches not being able to participate in the program? Why are we in Vermont targeting community services by churches, when we know that our small towns often have no significant gathering places for community members, aside from our town churches; and that traditionally in Vermont, churches are not only used for religious functions but have served as central meeting places for community functions since our inception as a state.

    Is this state, whose State emblem says “Freedom and Unity” on it, really going to go the way of the national partisan political fiasco and cause this state to become a carbon copy of DC’s mess because our representatives in DC have decided to make their mark for partisan politics in this State too? Ethan Allen would be up in arms – literally!

    It was not only the churches that were asked to participate, but those that were did so wholeheartedly, because we as Vermonters have always stepped up to the plate. And I’ll bet if others were asked they would follow suite. To make our pastoral leaders look like they are unorganized and less than The Vermont Food Bank is insulting. I find it interesting that The Food Bank is being suggested for a leadership role. After all they did get those millions of dollars in funds that are sitting there waiting to be used. But using those funds, when there are plenty of town folks willing to help their neighbors on a personal level in this time of crisis (at no charge I might add) would be better used in other ways. Not to mention that when I called the Food Bank to have my donation dollars sent to a particular region of Vermont last fall, they acknowledged that the funds would go there, but I found out later, they had no intentions of sending them where requested, but that they went instead into the central fund. There are regions in Vermont that are not well served by the Food Bank either and I now send my funds to a local organization instead.

    Can you really re-organize all this for March and April, seeing as it’s already March and the program will end in April? Or would it be a better solution to add to the locations and volunteers that are already in place. Seems it would be better to continue with familiar locations for the local people we are serving and not run the risk of losing out on distribution because it cannot all be reorganized in a week’s time. If you have to have the Food Bank run it, fine; but let’s stop the division, work together and really be “Vermont Strong”!

  4. Church pushed out of food box distribution –. I Know I said it before, but who votes for these clowns? { Sorry Joey P. } Sanders, Leahy, Welch the most misguided clowns to hold the office of the Legislative branch, representing no one with any common sense. Now you can’t give food away to people who need it. They should be ashamed, but they might not be bright enough to realize how deficiency they are of any moral character.

  5. The Cambridge Christian Fellowship giving food to people in need is a good thing!! Our legislators from Vermont in the Federal Government have no Constitutional,or moral right to intervene in any way!Mr Sanders,Mr Welch,and Mr Leahy should be rebuked,censured,and removed for such an action!!Our government needs to be aware ,they work for us,we do not work for them!!

  6. sanders, welch, leahy, seriously. Are you that intimadated by Donald Trump Still..does hate still fill that mind of all of you?. Is showing your authority more important than the people you promised to do good by?. Reading all the amazing comments above gave me that old Vt feeling of who and why we all lived here and raised our families here. The churches are the heart of the community and yes always used for gatherings and special events. Being able to give food out from the churches is an excellent idea each town and those surrounding towns so that the people don’t need to travel 500 miles to help provide for their families. Its all about community and Yes more importantly God. I agree that our own state HIRED people have gone way to far away from a place and people they say they care about. I pray our local and town legislatures do not get big heads . All in all what a shame really what a shame. Its a spiritual war ya know always has been right from the beginning. Who’s going to win? In the end Jesus Christ…. Right now whom ever you give power to . whomever you feed..The Government you do realize its not for you anymore. Its power, money, greed, control and it will get worse..VT. We need to take a stand before it’s to late. Halloween is over you can take your mask off. Worse times are coming step inside your community church.

  7. Leftist, authoritarian governments always want a monopoly on maintaining dependency. Their monopoly does not look kindly on faith-based organizations helping people out. The leftist “religion” of totalitarianism is what we are supposed to bow and kneel to. Elections have consequences.

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