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Gillibrand, bipartisan group of senators urges USDA to prioritize emergency food assistance

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA) and 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.