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Casey, Gillibrand Urging USDA to Prioritize Emergency Food Assistance

Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) along with a bipartisan group of 26 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 over $100 million this fiscal year, if USDA does not make emergency purchases.

“Unfortunately, low-income families continue to feel the impacts of the recession and the need for emergency food assistance has outpaced supply. While national unemployment rates have dropped, millions of people continue to struggle to get back on their feet. Too many families continue to have difficulty finding work. Many more are barely getting by on reduced wages and hours,” the senators wrote. “High food and fuel costs also continue to impact available resources for both food banks and the hungry families they serve. Thirty-seven million people—one in eight Americans—continue to rely on emergency food assistance each year through our nation’s 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 $194 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
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Thank you for your continued commitment in the fight against hunger. We write this letter to urge you to once again use your administrative authority to ensure that USDA is utilizing all possible resources to ensure a sufficient stream of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) commodities to our nation’s food banks and through them, to countless food pantries and affiliated community organizations. Specifically, we strongly encourage you to utilize existing appropriated TEFAP funds as well as price and market support programs such as Section 32 funds and to be proactive in meeting these agencies’ need for commodities. Food banks across the country are depending on USDA to continue this commitment.

Unfortunately, low-income families continue to feel the impacts of the recession and the need for emergency food assistance has outpaced supply. While national unemployment rates have dropped, millions of people continue to struggle to get back on their feet. Too many families continue to have difficulty finding work. Many more are barely getting by on reduced wages and hours. High food and fuel costs also continue to impact available resources for both food banks and the hungry families they serve. Thirty-seven million people—one in eight Americans—continue to rely on emergency food assistance each year through our nation’s food banks.

In FY 2012, USDA made $304 million in bonus commodity purchases that were distributed through TEFAP to hungry Americans. Unfortunately for food banks, as a result of strong agriculture markets, USDA reduced commodity purchases to $230 million in FY 2013, which is a 24 percent decline. Unless additional purchases are made before the end of FY 2014, the purchase amount for FY 2014 is expected to decline even further to $194 million. Food banks are struggling to meet high demand, sometimes unable to fill order requests from local agencies. Such significant shortfalls could be ameliorated by USDA making additional TEFAP commodity purchases and maximizing market surplus opportunities.

As you know, TEFAP commodities are critical to emergency food providers, and, more importantly, to struggling American families. Yet, our nation’s food banks continue to struggle to meet the sustained high need 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 their community partners. Without additional TEFAP commodities, these agencies will be hard-pressed to continue providing current levels of food assistance to those in need. Once again, we encourage you to utilize your existing funds and authority to fulfill TEFAP commodity purchases.

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

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