A coalition of anti-hunger groups in Denver announced Wednesday that it removed a letter from President Donald Trump from boxes of food paid for by the federal government before those boxes were distributed to families in need.
A US Department of Agriculture program called Farmers to Families distributes boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat from local nonprofits and anti-hunger organizations. In September, the USDA commissioned the boxes to contain a letter from Trump touting the federal program and listing several hygiene tips.
The Denver Community Food Access Coalition says the letter printed on White House letterhead depicts a politicization of federal aid and contains outdated public health information. The letter advises people to “wear face covering in public” rather than directly telling people to wear face covering.
“The politicization of the one lifeline that Colorado families left during this health pandemic and economic crisis by placing these letters in food boxes is shameful and humiliating,” said Christine Alford, executive director of Denver Food Rescue, a member of the Food Access Coalition.
Reaching out for comment Wednesday, USDA defended the president’s letter, which is printed in both English and Spanish. The letter does not mention the choice.
“Politics didn’t play a role in the ‘Farmers to Families’ food box program. It’s just about helping farmers and traders bring food to Americans in need in this unprecedented time,” the agency said in an email . “President Trump’s letter has been around for several months and contains health information that is vital in slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
USDA commended the Farmers to Families program from Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, and Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to the president and his daughter.
Nonprofits across the country have weighed what to do with the Trump letter. They fear that if they leave the letter in grocery boxes, they will violate non-partisan laws and lose their tax exemption status. The program, due to end on Saturday, reimburses farmers for the food they distribute to families and gives them customers in times of dwindling distribution to restaurants and schools.
The Denver Community Food Access Coalition consists of eight nonprofit organizations and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. In a press release on Wednesday, the coalition accused the president of using the letter to try to influence next week’s elections.
“We are not farmers in this election,” said Teva Sinicki, CEO of Metro Caring, a member of the coalition. “The biggest public health and economic crisis Colorado has ever seen is not time to take advantage of hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars and manipulate overworked direct service providers to bolster their re-election campaigns.”