If you’re a family receiving food aid from the federal government, you’re going to start getting a “gift” along with it pretty soon: a letter signed by President Donald Trump taking credit for the program.
Since May, the Department of Agriculture has distributed more than 100 million boxes of food through its Farmers to Families Food Program, as part of coronavirus assistance efforts. Last week, the Agriculture department began requiring that these boxes of food come with a letter signed by Trump, Politico reported Wednesday, after starting to put them in boxes in July.
“As President, safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens is one of my highest priorities,” the letter, which is in both English and Spanish, says. “As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.” The implication of the new rule so close to the election hasn’t been lost on food banks. One Chicago food pantry planned to remove the letter from the 200 boxes it was supposed to receive on Wednesday, the director told the Chicago Tribune.
“It is quite unethical and a misuse of government funds,” Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, executive director of the Pilsen Food Pantry, told the Tribune. “I find it highly offensive that we have a letter in here that doesn’t add any value and to me it seems very self-promoting.”
"This is supposed to be about helping hungry people,” Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, the chair of the House nutrition subcommittee, told Politico, “It is one of the worst things I've seen in a long time.”
The Agriculture department denies that the letters are political. “Politics has played zero role in the Farmers to Families food box program,” the Agriculture Department told Politico. “It is purely about helping farmers and distributors get food to Americans in need during this unprecedented time.”
But this is not the first time Trump has been accused of using federal money and assistance programs for the needy for self-promotion. When the coronavirus relief stimulus checks authorized by the CARES Act were sent earlier this year, they carried Trump’s signature—the first time a president’s name has appeared on a disbursement from the Internal Revenue Service.
All recipients also received a letter for Trump claiming credit for the stimulus checks, even though it was passed by Congress. “Our top priority is your health and safety,” that letter said. “We are fully committed to ensuring that you and your family have the support you need to get through this time.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Duluth, Minn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)