Today, Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, and Matt Habash, president and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations. The hearing reviewed the implementation of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program’s (CFAP) Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
Habash testified that the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has experienced exponential growth in need for food assistance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring that the food bank work in new ways to connect nutritious food to households facing hunger, many for the first time. “[O]ur food bank has distributed 29 million pounds of food from March through June, a 30 percent increase from the same period last year, breaking record after record in food provided to our neighbors.”
In his testimony, Cooper also elevated the new reality of hunger in San Antonio, and throughout Texas, mentioning, “At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we went from feeding 60,000 people per week to now feeding 120,000 people a week.”
As the coronavirus crisis has disrupted the nation’s food supply chain, making it difficult for food banks to maintain a steady pipeline of food to help ensure communities in need have enough to eat, Habash testified on the role of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. “CFAP has created another option to get food to individuals across the country and to provide additional support to growers and producers who are hurting due to the disruption in the food supply chain.”
Cooper mentioned, “Food banks across the country viewed USDA’s announcement of the Farmers to Families Food Boxes as an innovative solution to the supply chain challenges many growers and producers are experiencing due to COVID-19, and a solution that would also help connect additional food with communities in need.”
In anticipation of even greater demand for food assistance, both Habash and Cooper asked federal lawmakers to make additional investments in our nation’s federal nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and child nutrition programs, to help supplement the charitable food sector’s efforts to ensure no one goes hungry during, or after, the current public health and economic emergencies.
“Before COVID-19, for every meal the Feeding America network of food banks distributed on average, SNAP provided nine,” Habash said on the need to strengthen SNAP. “In these uncertain times, SNAP can help people immediately while also providing an economic stimulus to local economies, helping people and communities get back on their feet so they don’t have to rely on charitable or government assistance any longer than necessary.”
Regarding increasing TEFAP funding levels, Cooper testified, “Bolstering TEFAP will also help to offset deep declines in retail and other food donations, especially as food banks face extra costs related to new food delivery models that align with guidance from health professionals.”
The San Antonio Food Bank and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank are a part of Feeding America’s nationwide network of 200 member food banks and 60,000 partner food pantries and meal programs. CFAP is a program designed to ensure healthy food from growers and producers makes it onto the tables of our neighbors now when they need it most.
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, we provide meals to more than 40 million people each year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.