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Senator John Cornyn Witholds Judgment For Now On Controversial Food Contract

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Food Bank volunteers load a truck with boxes of food Friday morning.

Two San Antonio congressmen have called for the federal government to cancel a $39.1 million contract with a San Antonio wedding planner. CRE8AD8 and its CEO Greg Palomino have been criticized for securing the contract despite having no experience or facilities at the time it was awarded. However, U.S. Senator John Cornyn declined to weigh in.

“I'm gonna wait and see what we learn about the facts if there's been improper conduct and people need to be held accountable, but in the meantime we just need to get people fed,” he said Friday morning. Cornyn was at the Alamodome assisting the Food Bank in loading cars.

Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett, both democrats, had called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cancel the contract earlier in the week. At the time CRE8AD8 had yet to deliver any of the roughly 750,000 food boxes to food banks across the southwest. 

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio

The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program was intended to bridge the gap between the glut of produce, protein and dairy on farms with families in need. Questions have been raised about the competence of several vendors including CRE8AD8.

“If they (USDA) did any background check at all, they would have determined that this particular vendor (CRE8AD8) was incapable of doing this job,” said Doggett on Wednesday.  

| Related: Questions and Cancellations Create Uncertainty Around San Antonio Company’s USDA Contract|

CRE8AD8 delivered the first of its food boxes to the San Antonio Food Bank Thursday afternoon.

“Our team has been working day and night to get Operation: CRE8AMEAL rolling. Let’s feed families,” said the company’s CRE8AMEAL facebook page alongside photos of people packing food. The post was later taken down.

But the photo op for the company’s social media accounts amounted to just 5-6 pallets or about 25% of one truck load. It’s contract size suggests they will need to deliver about 470 full truck loads. 

There is concern that there isn’t enough time left in the contract, which ends June 30, to complete the task. Not just the fact that it needs to pack and ship more than 100 trucks a week — and it took two weeks to ship less than one truck — but also accessing requisite levels of protein. 

Processing meat has slowed significantly as plants and slaughterhouses shut down with sick employees earlier this month. They have still not recovered, and nationwide NPR has found that millions of pigs will be euthanized as a result.

San Antonio’s Food bank is struggling to keep up with demand of families in need, and CRE8AD8 received one of the largest awards in the country, and the second largest in the southwest.  Food bank volunteers loaded the trunks of 1600 cars Friday morning.

Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank.

“We’re just excited to get some food and there’s a lot of contractors that have been delivering food,” said Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank. 

CRE8AD8 delivered about 250 boxes Thursday, and 450 on Friday. It has four more weeks to deliver the remaining 740,000.

“We know we have a demand, we have a need,” said Cooper. “We know we haven’t met that demand, and we are just keeping our fingers crossed with the senator that people get food.”

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org