CRE8AD8 — a local events firm that drew criticism after landing a federal pact to distribute food to needy families — has delivered its first 235 boxes to the local food bank, the the San Antonio Express-News
For those keeping score at home, that's 235 out of the 750,000 boxes required under the company's $39 million contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We are proving you guys all wrong,” owner Gregorio Palomino told the daily, referring to the media.
Palomino surprised the San Antonio Food Bank with an unscheduled delivery of five pallets of produce, the Express-News
reports. One Food Bank staffer estimated the delivery filled just 20 percent of the truck in which it arrived.
The company's contract under the federal Farmers to Families Food Box program is meant to supply surplus food to families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We could use an additional 20 truckloads a week from this program,” Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the Food Bank, told the daily. “CRE8AD8’s contract can produce 469 truckloads of food, so there is a long way to go.”
Industry experts and members of Congress were stunned when CRE8AD8, which had no track record in food distribution, landed the major contract. Beyond its lack of experience and infrastructure, the company drew further scrutiny after an Express-News
investigation raised questions about Palomino's claims about his client roster and credentials.
U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro, both San Antonio Democrats, fired off letters asking the USDA to investigate contracts awarded to CRE8AD8 and other companies without food distribution experience. Doggett also demanded
the USDA jerk the event planner's $39 million contract.
"With such a stunning lack of qualifications, the only way the vendor could have landed that contract is by flagrantly lying in their bid information, which shows [the USDA] didn't give it proper scrutiny, or it was calling in a favor from someone in the Trump administration," Castro told the Current
. "That's what my office is trying to figure out right now."
Beyond CRE8AD8, Castro said other contractors with little to no food distribution expertise have landed deals under the USDA program.
While Palomino has been able to purchase, fill and distribute food boxes with awarded funds since May 15, Thursday's delivery to the SA Food Bank was its first. The contract requires the company to distribute all of its food boxes by June 30.
“We’ve got millions of pounds going [out] over the next week,” Palomino told the Express-News
Thursday. “We are a small business, and we are here to feed America.”
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