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The district says there are no requirements to pick up a box and distribution is open to all.

COURTESY PHOTO: BEAVERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT - The Beaverton School District announced it received a grant through the the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer more free food boxes on Wednesdays at three locations starting in early October.

After having to cancel its free food box distribution for two weeks in late September, the Beaverton School District is offering the program once again at various locations.

Each box contains fresh produce, dairy and meat. The school district says there are no requirements to pick up a box and distribution is open to all.

"We understand that food insecurity is a major concern for many of our families," said Beaverton School District spokesperson Shellie Bailey-Shah. "In addition to providing breakfast, lunch and supper service to children ages 1-18 via our nutrition services distribution twice a week, this program allows us to provide additional food to entire families."

The district has given out food boxes in the past around holidays but started the weekly free food box distribution last March through July in partnership with area churches. During that time, the school district gave out approximately 7,000 boxes, according to Bailey-Shah.

In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered its own Farmers to Families Food Box Program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Since the USDA program started, Bailey-Shah says approximately 8,400 boxes have been given to people in need.

In a Sept. 23 Facebook post, the school district announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture selected new vendors for the program. It was unclear if the district would still distribute boxes, but the district later announced it received a grant through the USDA to offer more free food boxes on Wednesdays at three locations starting in early October.

The boxes also contain a letter signed by President Donald Trump.

The letter is addressed to families and says that the food boxes are from farmers across the country as part of the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are partnering with local organizations, farms, and ranches to ensure that you receive locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables as well as dairy and meat products," said the letter.

Trump's letter also includes COVID-19 precautions such as practicing good hygiene, washing your hands and suggesting for people to stay home if sick.

The USDA received criticism from some for allowing the letters to be placed with the food boxes in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.

"I view it as propaganda," Melissa Acedera, founder of a Los Angeles-based food pantry, told POLITICO.

At Southridge High School, district staff removed some of the letters before distributing the boxes, Bailey-Shah confirmed. She said staff at the Southridge distribution site were later instructed not to remove the letters, and the district instructed principals at Aloha and Beaverton high schools to not remove the letters after the incident at Southridge, either.

"We have no stance on the letters," said Bailey-Shah. "The letters are included with the USDA-issued food boxes. We simply distribute the boxes to our families in need."

It's unclear whether the Beaverton School District will be able to continue providing the free food boxes as it has been doing. Bailey-Shah said the USDA has renewed the grant, but there are more unknowns than answers.

"The USDA has decided to switch food box vendors again," said the district in a tweet on Monday, Nov. 2. "This means that we will NOT have a food box distribution at Aloha, Southridge or Beaverton High Schools on Wednesday, November 4. When we've received the new schedule and distribution information, we'll share it."

For more information, visit beaverton.k12.or.us.


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