Casey Leads Bipartisan Group of Senators Urging USDA to Prioritize Emergency Food Assistance

Food Banks Assist One in Eight Americans, Nearly $130 Million in Potential Cuts to TEFAP from FY 2012 Levels

Casey Leads Bipartisan Group of Senators Urging USDA to Prioritize Emergency Food Assistance

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and a bipartisan group of 21 other senators sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to make emergency purchases during this fiscal year to assist The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). TEFAP provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.  Federal support for TEFAP is estimated to drop off by nearly $130 million this fiscal year, if USDA does not make emergency purchases.

“The need for emergency food assistance has outpaced supply at a time of continued elevated unemployment and underemployment, increased food and fuel costs, and reduced funding for TEFAP storage and distribution, increasing the challenges facing food banks. Thirty-seven million people— one in eight Americans— are now receiving emergency food assistance each year through the nation’s food banks,” the Senators wrote. “With the millions of families across the country continuing to struggle to make ends meet in the wake of the recession, TEFAP commodities are critical to emergency food providers like food banks.”

The number of people in need of emergency food assistance will remain at unprecedented levels as the economy continues to recover and unemployment rates improve. Federal bonus funding for TEFAP is estimated to drop off from $304 million in FY2012 to only $133 million this fiscal year. This dramatic decrease in funding will severely affect efforts to combat the growing need for emergency food assistance. Without additional funding, too many food banks face the prospect of empty or seriously depleted food stocks.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Thank you for your continued commitment in the fight against hunger.  We know this is an issue USDA cares deeply about, as was demonstrated last August by the $170 million purchase of meat and poultry products designated for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the recent launch of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.  Food banks across the country are depending on USDA to continue this commitment.

We write this letter to strongly urge you to once again use your administrative authorities to distribute existing funding and to do as much as USDA is able to meet demands for TEFAP commodities at food banks. Specifically, we encourage you to make additional bonus purchases in FY 2013 that are designated for TEFAP.

Unfortunately, the need for emergency food assistance has outpaced supply at a time of continued elevated unemployment and underemployment, increased food and fuel costs, and reduced funding for TEFAP storage and distribution, increasing the challenges facing food banks.  Thirty-seven million people— one in eight Americans— are now receiving emergency food assistance each year through the nation’s food banks  In FY 2012, USDA announced $304 million in bonus commodity purchases that were distributed through TEFAP to hungry Americans.  Unless additional purchases are made in FY 2013, the purchase amount is expected to only reach $133 million. Food banks are struggling to meet high demand, sometimes unable to fill order requests from local agencies. Such significant shortfalls could be significantly ameliorated by USDA making additional TEFAP commodity purchases and maximizing market surplus opportunities.

With the millions of families across the country continuing to struggle to make ends meet in the wake of the recession, TEFAP commodities are critical to emergency food providers like food banks. Our nation’s food banks are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the unprecedented need they are experiencing in their communities.  According to Feeding America, TEFAP commodities comprise, on average, about 20 percent of the food moving through their network of more than 200 nationwide food banks and 61,000 local partners.  Without additional TEFAP commodities, food banks will be hard-pressed to continue providing current levels of food assistance to those in need. 

We appreciate your attention to this request and look forward to hearing from you regarding this issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey Jr.
United States Senator
Lisa Murkowski
United States Senator
Patty Murray
United States Senator
Tom Harkin
United States Senator
Martin Heinrich
United States Senator
Brian Schatz
United States Senator
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator
Tom Udall
United States Senator
Ron Wyden
United States Senator
John D. Rockefeller IV
United States Senator
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator
Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator
Susan M. Collins
United States Senator
Barbara Boxer
United States Senator
Bernard Sanders
United States Senator
Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator
Tim Kaine
United States Senator
Sherrod Brown
United States Senator
Carl Levin
United States Senator
Tim Johnson
United States Senator
Max Baucus
United States Senator
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
Jack Reed
United States Senator

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