We learned earlier this week that USDA is making $50 million available for the purchase of a variety of canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables and juices. These products will be distributed through TEFAP and will have estimated delivery dates betweek September 2011 and March 2012. Each state will be provided with their fair share of funding, and will be able to order from a menu of products which include tomato sauce, corn, carrots, green beans, peaches, pears, cranberry juice, orange juice, blueberries, potatoes, and oranges. This purchase is being made to satisfy a requirement in the 2012 Farm Bill that USDA purchase $401 million worth of "specialty crops" (i.e., fruits and vegetables) in FY2011.
While we are incredibly thankful for USDA made the decision to allocate this funding for the purchase of much needed TEFAP commodities, much more help is going to be needed to shore up supplies of TEFAP commoditeis nationwide. The inclusion of these products brings total FY11 spending on TEFAP up to $360 million. However, that still level of spending is still approximately $295 million -- or 45% -- below the FY2010 spending level.
As was announced last week, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) are circulating sign-on letters in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, urging Secretary Vilsack to use his administrative authority to direct funds to increase the availability of TEFAP commodities in FY2011.
With our network food banks poised to see a significant decline in the amount of TEFAP commodities received in FY2011, it is critical that all supporters of Feeding America food banks contact their Members of Congress to tell them about the importance of TEFAP and urge them to sign on in support of this letter.