(Washington, DC) – Following a letter from U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) expressing concern about the delivery of inferior, low-quality food products for Granite State families in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it has selected a new distributor for the New Hampshire Food Bank under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
Vincent Farms – a Delaware-based food distributor – had been awarded the previous contract with the USDA to supply food to the New Hampshire Food Bank through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. However, the products provided to the New Hampshire Food Bank were of significantly inferior nutritional quality compared to food supplies provided previously by a different distributor. When concerns about the quality of food were raised to the congressional delegation, Shaheen, Hassan, Kuster and Pappas called on USDA to investigate the claims immediately.
The lawmakers’ demand for an investigation into the matter resulted in the selection of a new distributor to the New Hampshire Food Bank for the fourth round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. WMUR’s Kristen Carosa has the story, which can be read here or in full below.
New Hampshire Food Bank forces change in distributor after families return poor quality food from USDA program
Congressional delegation calls for investigation after boxes sent with bad fruit, scrapple
By KRISTEN CAROSA
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The New Hampshire Food Bank has a new distributor after receiving complaints about low-quality food coming from a federal program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm to Trunk program started in May to help feed families during the pandemic. Food bank staff members said that at first, the food being given out was fine, but then another distributor stepped in and the quality of the food started to go down.
"It does not represent what the food bank's nutritional standards are, yet alone what we should be trying to deliver during a pandemic to boost immune systems," said Food Bank Director Eileen Liponis. "We have never had this before. We have some families returning the boxes. They say, 'No, this isn't worth it.'"
The food inside the boxes was low-quality fruit, vegetables and pork, such as scrapple.
"For those of you who are not familiar with it, it's a Southern product that makes Spam look like Grade A ham, and the only protein they gave us was pork, and that alienates a certain population, and we don't want to alienate anybody," Liponis said.
Liponis contacted New Hampshire's congressional delegation, who wrote a letter to the secretary of agriculture expressing concern about the supplier, Delaware-based Vincent Farms.
"Sometimes the squeaky wheel can make a change," Liponis said.
The delegation said the USDA was paying $40 to $60 a box, and the value of what was being given to the food bank was estimated to be $10 to $12. The delegation went on to say that each tractor-trailer being sent carries more than 1,000 boxes, which would allow the distributor to pocket $30,00 to $50,000.
"Now more than ever, the New Hampshire Food Bank is relying on federal resources like the Farmers to Families Food Box program to provide vulnerable Granite State families with access to high-quality, nutritious food supplies," U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a written statement. "Reports that the USDA-chosen distributor through this program has been delivering inferior, low-quality food products are shocking and unacceptable, especially in the midst of a national health and economic crisis. The USDA must investigate these allegations and I will continue to do everything in my power to help keep families fed and safe."
The delegation is now requesting an investigation.
"I don't know what's going to come out of that, but word has gotten out that we were not happy, and this next distributor that has gotten the award is making sure they don't get themselves in the same pickle," Liponis said.
She said the food is critical to help families through the holidays and winter.
"We are just hopeful that this is going to be a good product to get folks through the holidays," she said. "We are prepared to keep doing this, whether or not the USDA program is here or not. We are prepared to do mobile food pantries throughout the winter."