By Vince Corridor @vincehall
My father spent 30 years within the rice enterprise and I bear in mind driving a “financial institution out” wagon to move the grain earlier than I ever drove a automobile. From these rural roots I got here to understand that farmers are the muse of our nation’s meals system, offering the nourishing meals all of us want to guide wholesome, blissful lives. Farmers — by means of advocacy, fundraising and extra — are additionally crucial companions in our nation’s combat in opposition to starvation, particularly now, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right this moment I’m proud to serve Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief group. Working collectively, in 2020 we offered a record-number of meals to our neighbors in want amid new challenges to placing meals on the desk: a once-in-a-generation pandemic made going to the grocery retailer an unsure expertise, meals costs reached a 50-year high and unemployment charges rivaled those of the Great Depression.
Relating to making the case for strengthening the nation’s meals applications, farmers are a few of our simplest supporters.
As Feeding America’s community of 200 meals banks and 60,000 meals pantries and meal applications labored on the frontline to stem the rising tide of hunger, farmers had been, and proceed to be, together with meals banks to assist meet the skyrocketing want.
Even earlier than the unfold of COVID-19, meals banks and farmers have labored hand-in-hand to maintain plates full by means of applications resembling The Emergency Food Assistance Program. By TEFAP, the Agriculture Division purchases high-quality meals from U.S. farms. Feeding America, and different emergency meals suppliers, then companion with states to provide households in need with nourishing foods
TEFAP is a big win-win throughout the board. Farmers generate revenue from USDA meals purchases and meals banks obtain a gradual quantity of nutritious meals to distribute. Final yr, the individuals we serve took house an astounding 1.7 billion meals from TEFAP purchases of meals produced on American farms.
As starvation within the U.S. is magnified throughout COVID-19, it has turn out to be much more clear that the charitable meals sector can not do the work of feeding the nation alone. We additionally want deep investments in our nation’s federal nutrition programs, from TEFAP to the Supplemental Diet Help Program — a program that provides nine meals for each one our meals financial institution community gives.
Luckily, in relation to making the case for strengthening the nation’s meals applications, farmers are a few of our simplest supporters.
Organizations such because the American Farm Bureau have been crucial allies in urging lawmakers to make use of each device at their disposal to make sure no baby goes to mattress hungry and fewer households make not possible decisions between paying hire and shopping for groceries. Final yr, Farm Bureau and Feeding America teamed up to press USDA to shortly design and implement options to deal with rising starvation whereas nationwide information applications broadcast photographs of agricultural items being destroyed, as a result of pandemic-induced provide chain disruptions. In the end, this led to the introduction of the extremely profitable Farmers to Households Meals Field Program
Past advocacy, Farm Bureau used its profitable #StillFarming campaign to make clear how farmers are working extra time to maintain our nation fed by means of unsure instances. AFBF has partnered with Feeding America to boost funds by means of the sale of campaign-themed merchandise to climate an ideal storm of elevated demand, declines in meals donations and disruptions to the charitable meals system.
In November 2019, earlier than the start of the COVID-19 disaster, Feeding America Chief Government Officer Claire Babineaux-Fontenot was a visitor on the Farm Food Facts podcast, the place she mentioned the function of farmers in ending starvation: “Farmers on this nation are the bedrock of this nation, and so many farmers are doing a lot already to assist individuals going through starvation.” Claire’s phrases had been true then and they’re very true right this moment. As our community continues to assist households have full lives and full stomachs, the function of farmers in serving to us do this work can’t be overstated.
Vince Corridor is interim chief authorities relations officer at Feeding America.