Food bank needs feeding

I am writing to encourage Mountain Xpress readers to support the Senate farm bill (S. 2302) and floor amendments to it that provide additional funding for the Food Stamp and the Emergency Food Assistance Programs (TEFAP). Specifically, urge Sens. Dole and Burr to support further increases in food-stamp benefits and steps to expand access for vulnerable people.

The Senate is preparing to vote on a farm bill that could move our nation one step closer to a hunger-free America. The House of Representatives and the Senate Agriculture Committee have put forth tremendous efforts toward securing a strong nutrition title in the farm bill. It is now time to bring a farm bill home to every community in the country to ensure that hungry Americans have access to emergency food assistance.

It is critical that Congress provides $250 million in mandatory funding for TEFAP in the farm bill, with the amount indexed for inflation. If you visit MANNA FoodBank today and the emergency-feeding organizations we serve, you will find shockingly empty shelves and bare cupboards. A short time ago, food donated by the federal government was sitting on the same shelves.

Why has this happened? Ironically, the declines are primarily because of a strong agricultural economy, which leads to the U.S. Department of Agriculture purchasing surplus food much less frequently. Many of these surplus-food purchases are donated to food banks, like MANNA FoodBank. The value of USDA food support to these organizations across North Carolina has declined dramatically in recent years. Last year, the value of the food was $2,404,187 less than in 2003. If Congress provides $250 million a year in mandatory funding for TEFAP, with the amount indexed for inflation, North Carolina would receive $19,200,000 in food assistance over five years.

Every day that goes by without a new farm bill is a day that MANNA FoodBank’s inventory continues to dwindle. Empty shelves mean empty stomachs. I urge Congress to move swiftly and pass a farm bill as soon as possible.

— Kitty Schaller
Executive Director
MANNA FoodBank

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