The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been providing emergency food boxes for people in need. This is good. What is not so good is that these boxes contained signed letters from President Trump telling them that they are “cherished members of the American family” and that he prioritized sending food directly from farmers to hungry people. The letters also warn recipients to stay home if they’re not feeling well to avoid spreading the disease. The underlying message, of course, is that there is an election coming up in just a few weeks, and when people go to the polls, they should remember who gave them this food.
The USDA is requiring all CFAP-contracted vendors—that is, food banks and similar organizations—to include this letter in the boxes. But many of them are refusing.
“We’ve made it clear to our partners: We are not placing this letter in the box,” Catherine Drennan, director of communications and public affairs at the Greater Boston Food Bank, told The Washington Post. “We do not endorse any presidential candidate and have no connection to the letter and the inclusion of the letter in these boxes.”
The Greater Boston Food Bank is not alone. Food banks, schools, and other distribution points across the country are also removing the letter. This, they note, is time-consuming, especially since the demand for food relief has increased dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but they believe it’s necessary.
“It essentially blackmails nonpartisan food charities into aiding Trump’s reelection campaign by threatening more Americans to go hungry if these food boxes are not distributed,” explained Joel Berg, chief executive of Hunger Free America. “This move by the Trump Administration is illegal and immoral.”
This is the third round of boxes that has gone out since March. The first two boxes apparently contained no such letter.