Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Without Additional TEFAP Commodities, Food Banks May Face Empty Shelves this Year

As Congress crafts a budget that addresses our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank along with Feeding America urges legislators to safeguard nutrition assistance and other safety net programs. The number of families struggling to make ends meet increased significantly during the recession. With unemployment at an average of 12 percent in the region and still hovering near 14 percent in the Grand Rapids area, the need for food assistance continues to grow and food banks are pressed to meet need in their communities.
  • 37 million people – one in eight Americans – receive emergency food assistance each year through the Feeding America network of over 200 food banks, a 46% increase in the number of clients served since 2006.
  • Federal nutrition programs provide support not only to struggling working Americans and their families but also to America’s farmers and the agricultural industry.
  • Feeding America food banks could not provide current levels of food assistance without support from TEFAP and CSFP, nor could we meet added demand if the current funding levels and structure of SNAP and other federal nutrition programs were eroded. We urge Congress to protect essential nutrition safety net programs like TEFAP.
FEDERAL RESPONSE – THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TEFAP): TEFAP is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through organizations like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. Healthy and nutritious food commodities provided through TEFAP are an essential resource for the continued success of Feeding America food banks.
  • TEFAP commodities accounted for 24.7% of the food distributed through food shelves and mobile pantry agencies of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in 2010.
  • Local food banks combine TEFAP commodities with privately donated foods to maximize TEFAP program benefits far beyond the budgeted amount for the program. In this way, food banks exemplify one of the optimum models of the public/private partnership.
  • Declines in Section 32 funding at USDA and less need for USDA commodity intervention in the agriculture economy have resulted in an estimated 50% drop in commodity purchases for FY 2011. This will reduce the volume of food provided by TEFAP by approximately $345 million at a time when our members are already struggling to meet increased need in their communities.
  • If commodity purchases drop as expected by 50%, many food banks will face the prospect of empty shelves beginning this summer and on into the Holiday season. As the demand for food remains high at food banks across the country, TEFAP is necessary for the provision of a steady emergency food supply.
This program is the backbone that supports the emergency food relief work that our food bank network members carry out every day and provides some of the most nutritious food that we distribute. Our challenge is that even as the need for emergency food assistance remains high, the agricultural markets are currently very strong. As a result, there is little need for USDA to intervene in agricultural markets through bonus TEFAP purchases. Unless we take action now to alert Members of Congress and the Obama Administration to the pending dramatic decline in TEFAP supplies, the level of commodity support Feeding America receives from USDA will to drop off significantly – possibly by as much as 50% -- in federal fiscal year 2011 and on into federal fiscal year 2012.

Please contact our Senators and Rep. Cravaack, about the impact a reduction in TEFAP on food banks and call Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at (202)720-3631 and urge him to use his administrative authorities to increase the availability of TEFAP commodities in FY2011.

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