$1.5 Billion USDA Investment in Emergency Food Assistance Will Add to Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank Resources
The Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank and other food banks around the nation should see a resurgence in emergency food assistance supplies in the months ahead, thanks to an announcement on September 14 by the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that nearly $1.5 billion in additional funding will be provided as an urgently needed investment toward alleviating supply shortages within the charitable food system.
The Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank is one of the 200 members of the Feeding America network, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. "While we strive to meet the food needs of every community, we recognize there are still tens of millions of people who face hunger. The fact is we did not provide all the food people needed last year and even the year before. Due to rising food prices, unprecedented supply chain challenges, and greater demand, food banks were forced to provide 1.4 billion fewer meals to people facing hunger," said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America.
The Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank was able to supply enough food to provide in excess of 5 million meals to local residents during its fiscal year that concluded on June 30, but that was only 86 percent of the output generated during the previous fiscal year when more federal food supplies were received during the height of response to the COVID pandemic. In 2020, USDA foods made up 38 percent of all food distributed by the Feeding America network, translating to over 2.4 billion meals for community members in need. The Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank received 29 percent of its food supplies, enough for about 1.5 million meals, from the federal government during the past fiscal year.
Babineaux-Fontenot added, "We are deeply grateful to the Biden administration and the USDA for making this significant investment toward food security for millions of people facing hunger. These food purchases will help ensure the Feeding America nationwide network of 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and 60,000 faith-based and charitable partner food pantries and meal programs can be there for neighbors in need. We need more bold action like this to ensure the tens of millions of neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and friends facing hunger get the food and resources they need to thrive. We are asking state and local officials, individuals and businesses, and Congress to join us and help end hunger."
"To know that another substantial infusion of federal assistance from the USDA to strengthen emergency food assistance across the country is forthcoming is a reassurance to us and the dozens of community partners across our community who work with us, said Dan Maher, President & CEO of the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank. "While the details of how many commodities we will receive and the timelines for receiving them still need further development, the announcement that additional aid will be available is welcome news as our community continues to deal with the fall out of the pandemic and inflation. The announcement is especially timely because September is observed as Hunger Action Month."
Food banks, pantries, and other charitable food assistance programs have been providing a record response during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting 60 million individuals in 2020 and 53 million in 2021. This level of aid would not have been possible without USDA food purchases boosted by COVID recovery funding provided by Congress.
Today, the demand for emergency food assistance remains well above pre-pandemic levels. But in 2022, food banks have struggled with a food supply crisis, sometimes resulting in empty shelves and coolers. This nearly $1.5 billion in funding for USDA food purchases will help address the perfect storm of supply chain disruptions, decreased food donations, increased food purchase and transportation costs, and continued higher demand that food banks are facing.
"Our level of food supplies is quite different today than it was at the height of the pandemic," added Maher. "The reduction in federally supplied commodities after the pandemic spiked has meant less food available to distribute even though the need remains elevated. We look forward to better satisfying the needs of our community partners and residents once the impact of this national investment can begin to reach our community."