WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen led members of the Maryland delegation, including Senator Ben Cardin and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, and David Trone (all D-Md.) in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to immediately implement fixes to the Farmers to Families Food Box program, as recent changes to the program are leaving Maryland families and food vendors behind.

“We are disappointed to learn that multiple Maryland vendors and municipalities did not receive sufficient support from the program’s third round. We urge the Department take immediate action to remedy this as it impacts the food sources of thousands of Marylanders,” the lawmakers write.

They highlight the severity of food insecurity in Maryland, writing, “The number of Marylanders struggling with food insecurity has significantly increased due to the pandemic. Nearly 1 in 4 Marylanders faced food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now almost an additional 1 million due to the pandemic – of which nearly 339,000 are children.”

The Farmers to Families Food Box program, developed as part of the CARES Act passed by Congress in May, is intended to package surplus food from farms and send it to food-insecure families through food banks and municipalities. The changes in Round 3 of the Food Box program have meant that multiple Maryland vendors and municipalities have not been sufficiently supported by this vital program – cutting off a major food source for thousands of hungry Marylanders.

“Counties across the State have seen their access to food boxes cut by tens of thousands per week since the beginning of Round 3. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland was previously receiving 26,000 food boxes per week and once Round 3 started they are now only receiving 3,000 food boxes per week. Baltimore City, Maryland currently has no access to food boxes,” the lawmakers press. 

“Finally, we would be remiss if we did not express our very serious concerns with your attempt to require that self-promoting letters from the President be included in each box. This is a highly inappropriate and blatantly political use of taxpayer dollars,” the lawmakers write after the USDA began requiring that each food box include a letter from President Trump.  

The full text of the letter is available here.