A letter from President Donald Trump that accompanied U.S. Department of Agriculture fresh food boxes for Linden was replaced by one from the city’s Democratic mayor, Derek Armstead.
Food boxes were opened by local public works department employees. Trump’s letter was removed and a letter from Armstead was added.
“The original letter in these boxes was removed, and the mayor had city employees put in his letter on work time,” said Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey, a Democrat and an Armstead political rival.
Armstead acknowledged that his message was added to the box, offering local residents the impression to recipients that the food came from him.
“Whenever I do a delivery, I always add a letter from the mayor,” Armstead told the New Jersey Globe.
Trump says his administration has delivered 100 million Farmers to Families food boxes since May as part of a program to send nutritious food to families in need.
Included in the box is a letter from Trump on White House stationary that includes guidance to reduce the risk of being infected with COVID-19.
“The Mayor bragged about himself and his hand-outs,” Hickey said. “Trickery, deceitfulness, and theft for votes is very much alive in Linden.”
Trump launched the food box program last spring after some farmers said they were destroying food because the coronavirus pandemic left them with limited options to sell their food.
The Linde boxes came from DiMare Fresh, a Boston-based food repacking company.
Trump’s decision to add his letter to food distribution for needy families in advance of the November 3 presidential election has drawn some criticism.
“It is quite unethical and a misuse of government funds,” the executive director of a Chicago food pantry, Dr. Evelyn Figueroa, executive director of the Pilsen Food Pantry, said last month. “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.”
Figueroa said the Pilsen Food Pantry was removing Trump’s letter from about 200 boxes.