More than 53 million Americans turned to food banks, pantries, and meal programs last year, one-third more than before the pandemic, said Feeding America, a network of food banks and hunger relief groups, on Wednesday.
Americans are turning to food banks for help in the face of rising food, fuel, child care and housing costs, the chief executive of the Atlanta Community Food Bank told lawmakers on Tuesday. "Our distribution volumes are rising again" and now match the early months of the pandemic, when hunger was on the rise, said Kyle Waide, the chief executive.
The pandemic sent millions of Americans to food banks for help last year and the crush continues this year, said a food bank leader at a House hearing on USDA food donation programs on Wednesday. Feeding America, the largest food bank network in the nation, asked for a 45 percent funding increase for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which buys U.S.-grown food and gives it to food banks to alleviate hunger.
Although many food banks discourage donations of junk food, they still don't get enough donations of healthy food and continue to receive unwanted items, said the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest on Monday.
The Farmers to Families Food Box giveaway program was the Trump administration's answer to hunger during the pandemic but it undermined its goal by mismanagement and abuse of the $5.5 billion program, said a report released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Wednesday. The panel chairman, Democrat James Clyburn, suggested the USDA should pursue reimbursement, where appropriate, of misspent money.
One in 10 U.S. households were food insecure in 2020, the same level as a year earlier, the USDA's Economic Research Service reported Wednesday. The flat rate of food insecurity provided evidence that government and charitable programs during the Covid-19 pandemic tempered a rise in hunger despite the deep recession.
To reduce food waste and help feed hungry Americans, the USDA will spend an estimated $400 million to reimburse dairy organizations for donating products to food banks, said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh on Wednesday. The donation program was the second component of pandemic relief to dairy farmers that would total $2 billion this year.
The USDA announced on Friday that it will invest up to $1 billion to expand emergency food networks, bolstering the ability of food banks and local organizations to serve in-need communities.
The USDA ought to keep President Trump's glitzy food box giveaway program in operation rather than let it die at the end of April, said Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday. A food bank leader said that while the food box had been helpful in responding to pandemic-caused hunger, it was not as useful as programs like SNAP.
The government will distribute more than 25 million washable face masks through community health centers and the food bank network over the next three months, announced the White House on Wednesday.
For USDA, the most important number in its food-box giveaway program is how many boxes are donated — 18.4 million as of Friday, according to a tally on the homepage of the agency that runs the program. Officials declined to provide other details, such as the average cost of the boxes or how long the $3-billion initiative will be in operation.(No paywall)
One in five US households say they often or sometimes run out of food, a persistently elevated level of food insecurity as the nation faces its fourth month of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Covid Impact Survey. "Despite some public benefits in place, this is still very high," said Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, which launched the survey.(No paywall)
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, chosen by President Trump to oversee the reopening of meat plants, is now a member of the White House coronavirus task force, "which is focused on getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to reopen," said the White House. The appointment was announced a few hours after Perdue and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump visited a produce warehouse in the Washington suburbs that is part of the Farmers to Families Food Box on Friday.(No paywall)
Two of every five people visiting food banks "never had to ask for help for food" before — a gauge of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, said the chief operating officer of Feeding America. Katie Fitzgerald said food banks are facing, on average, a 70 percent increase in demand. (No paywall)
The "farmers to families food box," a $3 billion part of the Trump administration's coronavirus relief package, may not be an efficient use of taxpayer dollars although it is aimed at two vexing issues during the pandemic – crops with no buyers and food banks overwhelmed by demand, said a panel of analysts on Monday.
The first deliveries of the USDA's Farmers to Families Food Box, a coronavirus relief initiative to move surplus commodities to food banks from U.S. farms, are expected in mid-May, said Agricultural Marketing Service officials on Wednesday. (No paywall)
Congress increased funding significantly for public nutrition programs in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, said the chairman of the Senate subcommittee in charge of USDA spending on Monday. Congress has come under criticism for unfairly funding food programs in favor of farmers.
The government will spend $300 million a month to buy fresh produce, dairy and meat products that will be packaged into a box for food banks and other charities to give to hungry Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Some $3 billion will be spent on purchases of surplus foods for donation in an initiative that resembles the "America's Harvest Box" idea promoted by Perdue for delivering a portion of SNAP benefits.(No paywall)