Ivanka Trump on Friday, December 17, 2021, slammed a government report that charged her billion-dollar Farmers-to-Families Food Box Program with wasting taxpayer dollars, delivering rotten food, and being used for political gain by Donald Trump as an attempt to distract from Joe Biden’s failures in office.
‘It’s unfortunate, yet hardly surprising to see the media work hand in hand with congressional democrats in a desperate and transparent effort to distract from the staggering incompetence of the current administration,’ stated a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump.
No specific actions of the Biden administration were addressed. President Biden ended the Food Box Program in May.
A 46-page report from the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, written by the Democrats on the panel, charges the program with delivering a ‘windfall profits to unqualified food distributors who wasted taxpayer dollars.’
The Trump administration also used the Food Box Program for political advantage, the panel said.
In its findings, it revealed that in the six weeks leading up to the election, vendors employed by the program were ‘required include in all outgoing boxes a letter signed by President Trump in which he took credit for sending out the food, despite the fact that the boxes were to be distributed through apolitical nonprofit organizations.’
Donald Trump also announced an extension of the Food Box Program at an official event in a battleground state that coincided with the opening of the Republican National Convention.
And, at that event, then-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue engaged in overt political activity that the Office of Special Counsel found to violate the Hatch Act, as the secretary’s ‘first words were not about USDA, but about the president’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.’
The $4.5 billion programs, founded in the Spring of 2020, was championed by Ivanka Trump, who got it a $1.5 billion cash infusion in early December of last year.
It delivered 173,699,775 boxes and served nearly 4 billion meals, according to Trump’s Agriculture Department.
The former first daughter traveled the country to deliver food boxes as part of her support for the program.
Her spokesperson pointed out that Democrats have supported the program.
‘This was a wildly successful program that fed tens of millions of hungry people and kept small American farms afloat through the worst lows of the pandemic. Don’t take our word for it — Democratic Senator Durbin and Representative DeLauro were effusive in their praise of the program,’ Ivanka Trump’s spokesperson said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chairwoman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, in September introduced the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act, legislation to continue the program.
‘Along with creating the greatest public health and economic crisis in a generation, the COVID pandemic exploited our country’s nutrition crisis and highlighted the need to build resiliency in local and regional food systems,’ DeLauro said in a statement.
‘Throughout 2020, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program succeeded in connecting healthy fruits and vegetables from our nation’s farmers to hungry families who needed it the most. I saw gratitude on the faces of so many families as I helped distribute boxes from Cecarelli’s Harrison Hill Farm at Common Ground High School in my district. Many of them would go on to say that never before had they had access to such high-quality, fresh produce,’ she noted.
And Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois endorsed the program in April when speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
‘I am about to say something that will have you fall back in your chair. When it comes down to the food box program, I think the Trump administration got it right. That’s right, Durbin, this Democrat said it and I mean it,’ he said.
The program paid large food distributors to supply pre-packed boxes to nonprofits running food lines. There were food shortages during the pandemic, particularly for low-income families.
In Friday’s report, the committee focused on three of the largest contractors hired by Trump’s Agriculture Department: Yegg, Inc. (Yegg), CRE8AD8, and Ben Holtz Consulting, Inc. (Ben Holtz) – which were awarded a combined $95.7 million in contracts to deliver food.
It charged the Trump administration didn’t do the proper monitoring of the contractors, noting that the administration reimbursed Yegg for over $2.85 million for food boxes purportedly delivered to ‘Helping Feet,’ a real estate-focused nonprofit operated by Yegg’s co-owner, who was also the wife of Yegg’s CEO.
It found that Yegg, which got a $16.5 million contract, was a self-described ‘Export Management, Trading, and Trade Finance company.’
CRE8AD8, which received contracts worth $39 million, specialized in wedding and event planning.
USDA personnel told the committee they did not contact the professional references bidders provided on their applications to confirm the bidder’s experience.
In the references section of Ben Holtz’ bid proposal, the contractor wrote: ‘I don’t have any.’
The panel also charged the vendors with contributing to ‘food waste’ by failing to provide timely deliveries, delivering food in unsafe packaging, and pressuring recipients to accept more food than they could reasonably distribute or store.
One nonprofit director said YEGG once delivered 2,500 more gallons of milk than planned, adding: ‘I had to pay for that refrigeration out of my own pocket.’
Another recipient said of CRE8AD8: ‘They didn’t understand that you couldn’t send us bad food and expect us to take it.’
Recipient nonprofits also the panel that contractors delivered ‘rotten food and wet or collapsing boxes,’ provided large amounts of commercially packaged meat inappropriate for family consumption, or delivered produce at temperatures that presented a ‘food safety issue.’
Profits for the contractors were large.
CRE8AD8, which was ultimately paid $31.5 million in taxpayer funds, said its profits were between 10 and 25 percent – a total of $3.1 million to $7.75 million for one month of deliveries.
Yegg repeatedly charged taxpayers a 50 percent markup on the amount that is paid to a dairy for milk boxes, despite acting as little more than a middleman, the panel charged.