Feeding America, the nation's network of more than 200 regional food banks providing food and support services for more than 60,000 charitable food assistance programs, projects that food insecurity will exceed pre-pandemic levels throughout 2021.
Nationwide, 42 million people (1 in 8), including 13 million children (1 in 6), may face hunger this year. The network of food banks of which Second Harvest is a part, continues to experience increased requests for food assistance, with as many as 40 percent of those now in need of help being new to the charitable food system. In addition, Feeding America projects that 21 percent of Black individuals (1 in 5) may face hunger in 2021, compared to 11 percent of white individuals (1 in 9).
In response to the national rise in demand, Feeding America food banks distributed over 6 billion meals to community members in need in 2020, up from 4.2 billion in 2019. This represents a 44 percent increase over the prior year. Nutritious food provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a core part of how our network helps people in need. USDA provided 2.4 billion meals through our network in 2020, which was 39 percent of all foods distributed through Feeding America food banks.
As Congress works on additional legislation to help families weather this crisis, we ask support to:
Strengthen SNAP by extending the benefit boost for all recipients to increase benefits by at least 15% for the duration of the economic downturn to provide critical food assistance and to help promote economic stimulus.
Increase funding for food purchases to support food banks, specifically through an additional $900 million for food purchases through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) until September 30, 2022.Congress should also ensure any additional funding to help support USDA food purchases of commodities impacted by COVID-19 supply chain disruptions are distributed through USDA food distribution programs.
Address funding shortfall within the network in cold storage and distribution capacity.
Details of the Priorities
Increase SNAP benefits to help people and the economy:
SNAP is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger, providing benefits that are timely, targeted and temporary. We need continued and expanded SNAP investments now more than ever. SNAP is an economic multiplier, infusing money into local economies. SNAP is vital to the individuals and families who were already food insecure, as well as the millions of newly-unemployed individuals. Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits helps generate between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Strengthening SNAP by extending the increase in benefits of at least 15 percent until the economy is recovered would help us reach that goal and ensure people facing hunger have access to the meals they need.
The charitable food system cannot do this alone. For every meal provided by Feeding America food banks and their partner agency networks, SNAP provides nine – there is no way that our network can make up for the unparalleled strength of SNAP to increase food security and stimulate local economies.
Increase funding for food purchases to support food banks:
In 2020, food banks relied on TEFAP to provide 2.4 billion meals to people in need of food assistance. This amount is expected to drop significantly in 2021 as USDA ends the Food Purchase and Distribution Program. Although the inclusion of funding for TEFAP in prior COVID-19 relief legislation will help, food banks could still see an estimated 30-40 percent decline in TEFAP foods in 2021.
To ensure food banks can meet the demand for food assistance during the downturn and recovery, Congress should provide $900 million for TEFAP food purchases through the end of FY2022. TEFAP is the backbone of the charitable food system and more funding will ensure food banks can continue to meet the need.
In addition, we ask that any additional funds provided to USDA for food purchases to stabilize domestic commodities are distributed through USDA food distribution programs to ensure equity in helping communities in need.
Support investments in our nation’s charitable food system infrastructure:
Across the country, shortages of refrigerated and frozen storage space, coupled with insufficient numbers of trucks and other delivery vehicles, present severe challenges as food banks, food pantries and hunger relief organizations work to meet the needs of their communities. This is due to the fact that the cost of storing and distributing government purchased commodity foods far exceeds federal funding provided to cover such expenses. This has left food banks to absorb hundreds of millions of dollars in additional operating expenses each year.
We estimate a total cost of $543,250,000 to meet the most immediate needs for new coolers, freezers, refrigerated and dry trucks and trailers across the entire network.