Farm Share sets the record straight regarding the TEFAP Award

 
 

Press Conference/Response Video

"When government entities award contracts that are competitively bid, these decisions are frequently accompanied by challenges from other applicants who were not selected, as is the case here.  To succeed, these challenges must establish flaws in the process, bias or issues with the award winner’s application(s). 

 

In this case, Feeding South Florida is engaged in this classic strategy by making unfounded and misleading allegations and statements against Farm Share, FDACS and the five (5) impartial and experienced evaluators that scored the submitted applications.  However, these allegations are not based on facts."

Farm Share - CEO Stephen Shelley

It is disheartening that another public service organization would attempt to attack and tarnish Farm Share’s reputation for the sole purpose of benefiting their own self-interest.

 

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Award Facts and Information

 

There is currently a misinformation campaign being waged by the second place applicant, Feeding South Florida, related to the recent TEFAP awards that were issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).  The purpose of this misinformation campaign is to confuse the media, public and elected officials as to what the true facts are related to the award process and to tarnish Farm Share’s reputation and standing in the community.  In a time where food insecurity has become a household discussion, and communities throughout the state are still recovering from a once and a life time pandemic, it is disheartening to see so much energy being devoted to preserving one’s self interest and not the betterment of the hungry people we as food banks were created to serve.

 

As background, FDACS issued a Request for Applications (RFA) as part of a Notice of Financial Funding Opportunity to administer the TEFAP program by the United State Department of Agriculture.  This RFA was issued on January 25, 2021 and consisted of 20 designated regions in Florida.  Applications were due by February 24, 2021.  From February 24, 2021 until March 26, 2021 a panel of five (5) impartial experts with substantial knowledge and expertise regarding the TEFAP program and food distribution in general reviewed, evaluated and scored each application.  This included calling a list of references provided by each applicant. 

 

At the end of this month long process, the scores were calculated and award recipients for each region in Florida were selected.  Farm Share was selected to administer six (6) regions; three (3) in South Florida, one (1) in central Florida and two (2) in Northeast Florida.  Farm Share also came in second in four (4) other regions.

 

Within three (3) days after the awards were announced, three (3) Feeding America affiliated food banks challenged five (5) of Farm Share’s awarded regions.  The sixth region was not challenged only because no Feeding America Food Bank applied for that region.  These challenges were made prior to any investigation taking place, or any information was made available to the challenging food banks.  It was only sometime after the challenges were initiated that reasons for making those challenges were created. 

 

It should also be noted that Farm Share is the only independent, non-Feeding America Food Bank, that was selected to administer the TEFAP program in Florida.  Florida is also one of the few states in the country in which an independent food bank participates in the TEFAP program.  Farm Share has been administering the TEFAP program in Florida for 25 years.

 

For those person’s familiar with challenges to government bid awards, there is a tried and true method to making such challenges.  To have any chance of success the challenging party must allege defects in the bid process, bias by the evaluators and errors contained in the competitions applications or bid.  Feeding South Florida is following this historic play book verbatim.  They have alleged that the process was flawed, that the five (5) impartial, educated and knowledgeable evaluators were biased and not consistent in their scoring and that Farm Share’s application was defective.  A classic bid protest argument. 

 

Unfortunately, none of the allegations they have asserted are factually true.  Instead, FDACS followed a long standing process that was established by the USDA to evaluate applicants for the TEFAP program.  This process clearly sets out the requirements for the program and the criteria that must be met.  It also clearly creates a point system and assigns those points to each subject matter and criteria that is part of the RFA process.

 

As it relates to the evaluators, these evaluators are experts in the TEFAP program or food distribution in general and like any experts may have differing opinions.  This is how a bid evaluation process works.  It is not uncommon to have one expert deem something more important than another expert and end up with a  completely different score.  This is why there are typically 3-5 evaluators and the scores are averaged.  This methodology accounts for the anticipated differences of opinions by each evaluator.  This is how this system is supposed to work.

 

Lastly, Farm Share’s application was complete and accurate.  The allegations made by Feeding South Florida against Farm Share are completely unsupported by facts and untrue.  This can be clearly demonstrated by reviewing an analysis performed by Farm Share of Feeding South Florida’s unfounded Petition challenging the award (Farm Share RFA Analysis)

 

However, in order to have any chance of overturning the awards, since the facts are not in their favor, Feeding South Florida must rely on a misinformation campaign and convince those who are unfamiliar with the bid process, TEFAP program and food banking in general that they have been wronged and that the media and elected officials should intervene on their behalf.  These actions are not being taken for the greater good but instead only to benefit Feeding South Florida’s own best interest.

 

Feeding South Florida would have you believe that if they do not retain the TEFAP program that Broward and Palm Beach Counties will be negatively affected and people will go hungry.  This is not true and causes unnecessary panic and anxiety for those who rely on this food to feed their families.  The volume of TEFAP food that will flow to each region is the same regardless of the provider chosen to administer the TEFAP contract.  Therefore, Broward and Palm Beach Counties will continue to be allocated and receive the same volume of food regardless of whether or not Feeding South Florida retains the contract. 

 

Feeding South Florida attempts to make the argument that they generated additional TEFAP food over the last few years.  However, the food they are claiming credit for was the result of new TEFAP programs not anything they uniquely were responsible for.  After Hurricane Irma the USDA implemented disaster TEFAP to help victims of the hurricane.  As a result of the trade war with China the USDA implemented Trade Mitigation TEFAP to help the farmers who could not sell their crops to China.  And during the COVID-19 Pandemic the USDA provide three (3) rounds of Coronavirus TEFAP to assist with the unprecedented hunger demand.  These programs, except for the Disaster TEFAP, were implemented nationwide not just in Feeding South Florida’s regions.

 

Lastly, Feeding South Florida argues they are the only organization capable of administering the program in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  This is also untrue.  Farm Share has been operating as a food bank in Florida for 30 years and has administered the TEFAP program for 25 of those years.  Under the current contracts, Farm Share administers approximately 23% of the total contract in Florida.  Feeding South Florida only administers 17.6% of the state contract.  Therefore, Farm Share is already currently administering more of the state contract than Feeding South Florida.  This completely undermines their statement that they are the only organization capable of carrying out the new contracts.  Clearly Farm Share is already administering a larger percentage of the state TEFAP contract and is capable of at least equaling Feeding South Florida’s local efforts. 

 

Farm Share is a statewide food bank, Feeding South Florida is a regional food bank.  Farm Share can pull from its statewide warehouses, trucks and logistical supply chain to make sure food consistently flows to all awarded regions.  It also allows for Farm Share to redistribute food from a region with an abundance of food donations to a region with a deficit of food donations during any given time period.

 

As it relates to Broward County, Farm Share has four (4) warehouses located within 56 miles of the county center.  One (1) of those warehouses is located directly in Broward County.  This network of warehouses will be used to ensure that a constant flow of food is delivered to Broward County and its agencies. 

 

Additionally, Farm Share has committed to lease an additional 28,000 square feet of warehouse space in Broward County to further bolster its local storage and distribution capabilities.  We have also ordered an additional four (4) refrigerated box trucks to enable Farm Share to more efficiently move food throughout the county, including the delivery of food to agencies.

 

Palm Beach County is similarly situated, with plans to acquire a 23,000 square foot warehouse in addition to forging a partnership with Palm Beach County Food Bank, who has an additional 30,000 square feet of storage space.

 

Feeding South Florida also incorrectly asserts that Farm Share does not deliver food to its agencies and that Farm Share primarily distributes its food through food distribution events.  Both of these assertions are false.  Farm Share distributes 90% of its food through its network of nearly 2,000 statewide partner agencies. 

 

Farm Share has also committed to bring on any existing partner agency that is receiving food from Feeding South Florida under the TEFAP program to ensure no gap in services.  This has already been communicated to these agencies through multiple emails and personal phone calls. 

 

Farm Share allows these partner agencies to pick up food directly from our warehouses or arrange for delivery of the food products depending on the agency locations and transportation capabilities.  Each TEFAP agency pick up or deliver is scheduled with the agency in advance.

 

Feeding South Florida also attempts to assert that it has distributed the same amount of food in four (4) counties that Farm Share distributed statewide.  However, this statistic does not compare apples to apples.  Farm Share’s distribution statistics referenced only include the pounds of food that it acquired, stored and distributed directly from its network of warehouse.  It does not include the food that is acquired, stored and distributed by Farm Share’s network of partner agencies.  If this additional food was accounted for, as it is by many food banks, the number would be many times greater. 

 

Historically Farm Share has only publicly disseminated the pounds of food that it directly develops vs. food developed by partner agencies as it believes this is the most accurate measure of the organizations activities.  Additionally, we are confident in the uniform methodologies used by Farm Share to measure and track these pounds vs. varying methods used by each partner agency.   

 

In summation, Farm Share has the experience, knowledge and resources to administer all TEFAP regions awarded to it under the most recent RFA process.  The process was fair, thorough and impartial and Farm Share provided a complete and accurate application as part of the RFA process.  Therefore, there are no legitimate grounds in which to overturn or modify any region awarded to Farm Share and Feeding South Florida’s misinformation campaign should be seen for what it is, a self-serving attempt to undermine a fair and impartial bid process.