September 30, 2009

The Honorable Senator Blanche Lincoln
Chair, Senate Committee on
Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
328-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairwoman Lincoln:

I am writing to congratulate you and to wish you well as you assume your new responsibility as the Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. This important Committee holds the key to ensuring a safe, affordable and plentiful supply of food for our nation and the world, and I am sure it will succeed in this mission under your experienced and able leadership.

I know you are aware of the important services our food banks in Arkansas provide to those facing hunger through your relationship with our hard-working colleagues across the state. I would like to amplify the picture of the role food banks play by sharing the most recent information on the Feeding America network of food banks and the issues we all face in fighting to end hunger in America. Our nationwide network of 205 food banks provide food and support to more than 60,000 local feeding agencies operated by private non-profit charities, religious and other community organizations. These local agencies include food pantries, child nutrition programs, soup kitchens, shelters, and other emergency feeding organization that reach some 25 million low-income people annually.

Along with helping to feed needy people, our network: (1) advocates for nutrition legislation and policies at the national and state level; (2) operates afterschool, summer food and weekend backpack programs for poor children ,and commodity supplemental food programs for low-income seniors, young children and mothers; (3) promotes volunteerism and public awareness about hunger; (4) conducts SNAP (formerly food stamp) outreach and application assistance; (5) raises funding and solicits donations from corporate and private sources, (6) provides logistical support and (7) conducts research and analysis on hunger and nutrition issues.

Some 36.2 million people in America (12.4 million of them children) were facing hunger in 2007, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. This was before the current economic crisis that is leaving millions in this nation without jobs and struggling to put food on their tables. Food banks and emergency feeding agencies are among the first to see the faces of those suffering the ravages of this economic recession.

Over the past 18 months there has been a rapid and steady increase in the number of people seeking emergency food assistance. A survey of our food banks conducted in late August 2009 revealed that virtually all food banks (99%) had experienced a significant surge in demand for emergency food assistance over the past year, with 98% reporting that first time users of food banks were a major source of growth. Ninety-two percent of our food banks reported that they were seeing many more people who had recently lost their jobs.

Thankfully, the economic recovery law (ARRA) enacted by the Congress has helped to get more food to more people through the SNAP and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Yet more continues to be needed as economic conditions continue to worsen, unemployment rises and more people are without jobs for longer periods of time.

In addition to helping those suffering from the impact of the current recession, we have set a legislative goal of improving our nation's child nutrition programs. Together with other anti-hunger partners, Feeding America is actively advocating passage of child nutrition legislation with enough funding to improve access, quality and coverage for all of our nation's children, especially those who are at nutritional risk. Feeding America's priorities for this legislation encompass the importance of nutrition programs for all children but particularly for the millions of low-income children who do not have access to healthy diets, particularly during the summer months, in afterschool care and on weekends and extended holidays.

The expiration of several child nutrition program authorities at the end of FY2009 and the President's budget request adding $1 billion annually o child nutrition programs offered an excellent legislative opportunity to move forward in meeting President Obama's goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015. Unfortunately no child nutrition legislation has been acted upon thus far in the first session of the Congress and an extension of the expiring child nutrition programs is expected to keep them operating in FY2010. We hope that only a short term extension will be needed and that under your leadership the Committee will move quickly on the changes to child nutrition programs that will fulfill the promise of finally ending childhood hunger in this nation.

As you face the many challenges before you, I ask that you remember these children and the millions in this nation who are facing hunger and the important role that nutrition plays in the health and well-being of all Americans. Our Public Policy Department and food bank network stand ready to help you and your staff work toward ending hunger in America and to accomplishing child nutrition legislation that will make a difference to our nation's future. Please do not hesitate to call upon our services if we can be of assistance.

Very best wishes,

President and CEO of Feeding America


Please contact one of our media representatives or call 800-771-2303


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