September 8, 2011

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week passed its version of the Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill – keeping funding for many of the nation's Federal food assistance programs, upon which food banks rely, intact.

The bill, which will be sent to the full United States Senate for approval later this month, is a remarkable improvement over the House bill that drastically slashed funding for nutrition assistance programs upon which hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially low-income seniors, women, infants, and children, rely

"I want to commend the Senate Appropriations Committee for recognizing the need for the sustained funding of our nation's Federal food assistance programs. The Senate bill is a significant improvement over the House bill which made major cuts to hunger relief programs at a time when need is at unprecedented levels," said Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America."With demand across our food bank network up by 46 percent since 2006, the continued success of these programs is critical to ensuring that struggling families can put food on the table and food banks can meet the need in their communities.

"While we would still like to see improvements to funding levels for TEFAP Storage and Distribution Grants and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, we believe passage of this bill out of Committee is a major achievement and look forward to working with the full Senate to pass a bill that ensures the strength of the nation's food assistance safety net."

The need for sustained levels of funding for Federal anti-hunger initiatives is especially important now in light of a USDA report released Wednesday that found nearly 49 million people in the US were food insecure in 2010. Experts estimate that number would rise if federal programs were to be further reduced.

Among the highlights of the Senate Agriculture bill:

� TEFAP Commodities. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a means-tested federal program that provides nutritious food commodities at no cost to Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through organizations like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. TEFAP commodities account for approximately 25 percent of the food moving through Feeding America food banks. Food banks combine TEFAP commodities with privately donated foods to maximize TEFAP benefits far beyond the budgeted amount for the program. For FY2012, the Senate provides the fully mandated amount of $260 million for the USDA to purchase commodities for distribution through TEFAP. (House appropriation: $200M)

� TEFAP Storage and Distribution Grants, which help to defray the costs to food banks of providing food to low-income individuals in need, are critically important to food banks as gas and food prices continue to rise. For FY12, the Senate provides $48 million worth of TEFAP Storage and Distribution Grants, about $1.5 million less than in FY11. (House appropriation: $37.5M)

� The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) leverages government buying power to provide nutritious boxes of food to approximately 604,000 low income people each month, mostly seniors with incomes less than $14,400. For FY12, the Senate provides $176 million, sufficient funding for USDA to continue service to all current participants in existing states (39 states and DC). However, they do not provide the additional $5 million needed to expand service to the 6 states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.) with USDA-approved plans. (House appropriation: $138M)


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