Granite State News Collaborative

Like many similar organizations across the country, the New Hampshire Food Bank has received boxes of food from the U.S Department of Agriculture that contain a letter with President Donald Trump’s signature.

“As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America,” the letter says.

The letter has been criticized by many food bank directors for politicizing a service for families in need, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election. The letter, written in both English and Spanish, touts the president’s dedication to the safety of Americans.

“We were quite taken aback,” said Nancy Mellitt, the director of development for the New Hampshire Food Bank.

Last week, the USDA mandated that all packages in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program include the letter from Trump. The program, which supplies boxes of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products to families in need, was established as part of an effort to aid Americans struggling during the pandemic. Almost 100 million boxes have been sent out since May when the program launched.

The New Hampshire Food Bank gets about 2,000 boxes of food a week from the Farmers to Families program. Mellitt said the staff first noticed the letters in a shipment that was distributed on Tuesday.

“We are a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization, we don’t like having the letter in the box – it’s not who we are,” she said. “We’re not endorsing any party or individual.”

Mellitt said she is working with other surrounding food banks, such as the Greater Boston Food Bank, to determine how to proceed with the boxes.

While they would like to remove the letters, she said it’s far too labor-intensive to go through each individual box, especially now that volunteers aren’t working at the food bank due to the coronavirus.

Instead, the food bank is considering putting stickers on the top of each box that clarifies they are non-partisan and do not have a connection to the letter.

“Politics has played zero role in the Farmers to Families food box program,” the USDA said in a statement to Politico, earlier this week. “It is purely about helping farmers and distributors get food to Americans in need during this unprecedented time.”

Other food banks across the country have removed the letter from the boxes before distributing them. The CEO of Ohio’s food bank posted a statement that they would no longer participate in the federal program in response to the letters. The statement was later deleted and the bank announced a new plan to participate in Farmers to Families.

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These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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