Weekly column from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to thank the farmers and ranchers who make our nation’s agricultural abundance possible. Without them, the safe, abundant and affordable food we’ll put on our tables at Thanksgiving would not be possible.
At the same time, this Thanksgiving, it is important to remember those less fortunate. Many people will donate time, food or other resources to a food bank to brighten the holiday for families in their communities, and I am proud to say that many USDA employees are among them. I am also proud that through our People’s Garden Initiative, we’ve been able to donate 3.9 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks across the country over the last few years.
USDA has also been able to provide support to organizations working to ensure that every family has access to nutritious food. For example, in Wisconsin, we provided grant funding to help the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry (RAFP) upgrade their facility. RAFP serves nearly 500 families each month with an annual distribution of 500,000 pounds of food.
However, the RAFP badly needed to replace outdated equipment and find more room for storage. After many months of fundraising and hard work, the RAFP was able to move to a new 7,200-square-foot facility. The new building features wider aisles for easier shopping, a sitting area, and floor scales for weighing food. The new set-up helps make food distribution more efficient. The move would not have been possible without generous support from the local community and leadership within the state, as well as a Community Facility Grant from USDA. Through this grant, USDA provided support for more than half – $26,000 – of the price for equipment such as shopping carts, a forklift, and two floor scales. The upgrades to the facility and equipment makes Rhinelander better equipped to do what they do best – help those in need.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll join me in thanking both people and organizations like the Rhinelander Area Food Bank who help to make a difference in the lives of those who have fallen on hard times, and the farmers and ranchers who year after year secure a safe, affordable, abundant food supply for our nation. We can pursue the opportunities life offers us because of their work to produce our food, so this Thanksgiving—thank a farmer.