On today's program: The Department of Agriculture mandates federally-funded Farmers to Families Food Boxes include a letter from President Trump; a rare bird was discovered in Westmoreland County; and the Black Lives Matter movement finds support in rural Pennsylvania.
Some food banks say they plan to remove the signed letter from Trump included in food assistance boxes
(00:00 — 6:37)
As part of the federal stimulus CARES act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture partnered with farmers, food distributors, and non-profits on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The $4 billion program redistributes fresh food that would have been sold to restaurants to Americans who are food insecure during the pandemic and recession.
Now, families who receive the federally-funded boxes will also receive a letter from President Trump on White House letterhead claiming credit for the food assistance. Critics say the letters could be used to unfairly bolster Trump’s image just before a contentious election. Food bank employees say they’ve never seen anything like it.
“I’ve been, you know, with the food bank for over 15 years now and this is the first time that we’ve been confronted with this sort of a situation,” says Dennis McManus, government affairs director for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
The letters are already included in the sealed boxes when they arrive at the food banks. Some food banks say they’ll remove the letters before distributing the boxes, citing concerns that the letters could be construed as political campaign material and threaten their nonprofit, tax-exempt status. But McManus says after speaking to their lawyers, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has chosen not to take action.
“Under these circumstances, we were fairly confident that taking no action—in other words, leaving the letters in the box—was the proper course of action and would not endanger our tax-exempt status.”
Bilateral gynandromorph bird found at Powdermill Nature Reserve
(6:41 — 12:44)
A rare bird was found by researchers at the Powdermill Nature Reserve in Westmoreland County. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a bilateral gynandromorph, meaning the right half of the bird is male, and the left half is female.
“So this bird, on first glance, looks just like almost any other Grosbeak,” says Annie Lindsay, the Bird Banding Program Manager at Powdermill. “But if you look at it closely, the male half of this bird has a pink underwing, a pink wash on the breast, and the wing has more black feathers. And then the female half of the bird is browner, the wing is browner, the underwing is yellow and the breast is buffy.”
Only five bilateral gynandromorphs have been observed at the reserve in its nearly 60 year history, and the reserve’s only other documented Rose-breasted Grosbeak bilateral gynandromorph was banded in 2005.
According to Lindsay, the bird banding team was thrilled to witness this rare experience. “It was really exciting to watch the crews’ reaction to this bird,” she says.
The bird is migratory, and Lindsay says they might not ever see it again.
What will the Black Lives Matter movement’s support in rural Pennsylvania mean for voting?
(12:48 — 18:00)
The Black Lives Matter movement spread more widely this year than any other protest in U.S. history. That included some deeply conservative areas, including Franklin County in south central Pennsylvania. As part of the America Amplified initiative, Keystone Crossroads’ Laura Benshoff reports that the movement has elevated fault lines and fractured alliances even in solidly Trump-voting areas.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.