The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to invest $1 billion in an effort to address food security. Funding will be used to support The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Under the program, the emergency food network will be expanded to enable local organizations to meet the needs of their communities. The funding announcement is part of USDA’s new Build Back Better initiative to develop a better overall food system.
“Hunger is on the decline thanks to aggressive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, but we must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “Now is the time to apply lessons learned from food assistance activities early in the pandemic to improve how USDA purchases food and supports on-the-ground organizations with TEFAP. We will put special emphasis on reaching rural, remote and underserved communities, local and regional food systems, and socially disadvantaged farmers.”
USDA will invest $500 million in the purchase of domestically produced food to be dispersed to food bank networks. Up to $400 million will be used to support the procurement and distribution of food through state and community organizations. Additionally, up to $100 million will be invested in expanding the reach of food security efforts. Funding will also support a new grant program under USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. The purpose will be to help food assistance organizations meet the requirements for TEFAP.
Groups such as the National Farmers Union and the United Fresh Produce Association have expressed appreciation for the enhanced investment to improve food security. However, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Policy Robert Guenther had some reservations about the initiative. Guenther suggested adopting a different approach, incorporating some of the aspects of the now-defunct Farmers to Families Food Box Program.