Ivanka Trump and Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Raleigh, N.C. on Thursday to distribute food as part of the Farmers to Families Food Box program.
Seeking to promote the program that has delivered 100 million meals nationwide, the duo also showcased how the NC State Farmers’ Market accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to allow those in need to use government funds to purchase produce.
Under the program, the USDA purchases fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers and then supplies food boxes to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"With over 100 million meals delivered to date, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program continues to serve and innovate in remarkable ways to feed our nation’s most vulnerable. By making this technology available through USDA, we are enabling those most in need access to fresh, locally-sourced meat, dairy and produce for their families," Trump said in a statement.
"The Secretary and I are thrilled to be able to highlight these efforts in the great state of North Carolina!” she continued.
As the coronavirus took hold earlier this year, Ivanka Trump spearheaded the launch of the $3 billion program, which aimed to save farmers’ livelihoods as restaurant closures cut off their sales while also providing fresh food to families in need.
Complaints emerged on social media that under the program the USDA has awarded handsome payouts to underqualified entities providing subpar food boxes.
But Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association (UFPA), said the initiative has proven a "win-win."
"Five months into Farmers to Families, the initiative has proven to be a win-win-win for growers, produce distributors, and food insecure families," Stenzel told Fox Business in a statement. "USDA has purchased an unprecedented $1.7 billion in fresh produce that otherwise would have gone to the schools, restaurants, and hospitality entities that are now shuttered or operating at reduced capacity.”
Farmers who spoke to Newsweek credited the program with saving their livelihood.
A group of 19 Democratic House members asked the USDA for additional information in August about how contracts were handled and whether veteran- or minority-owned businesses had been given consideration.