Photo courtesy El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, along with food banks across the nation, are seeing record need for food and funding in order to serve our most vulnerable neighbors during the COVID-19 health crisis. A health crisis that has also resulted in economic crises across the board in every community in the country.
The recent funding cut by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) only further exacerbates the crisis as it harms two populations hardest hit by the impacts of the pandemic, those who have lost their jobs and struggling farmers.
As a result of the Governor’s directive to trim state agency budgets by 5%, the TDA has slashed the Surplus Agricultural Product Grant by 44%. That is a $1.9 million negative impact to a program that, this year, assisted food banks in acquiring 33 million pounds of fresh produce for those in our state who are experiencing hunger.
For farmers, the grant program, which has been in existence for 20 years, helps to offset the cost of harvesting and transporting surplus agricultural products to Texas food banks, ensuring healthy foods end up on the tables of families in need while also reducing food waste.
The El Paso community will lose nearly $63,000 in funding which translates to over 700,000 pounds of healthy food. This is a critical time for struggling families and the end of this health and economic crisis is nowhere in sight. El Paso has seen a recent surge in positive cases and keeping our neighbors fed with nutrient-rich foods while also supporting our farming communities should be supported by our state leaders.
This is really the worst time for a cut like this to a program that has proven itself to be win-win for food banks, farmers and the families who rely on whole, nutritious food it delivers to them.
While there is continued demand for the services food banks provide during this time, additional funding sources are beginning to dry up.
EPFH is at risk of not having the ability to acquire additional food as federal agencies have indicated that, beyond the two previous allotments for food purchases, further funding is unlikely to be awarded. These grants have allowed EPFH the buying power to prioritize local food purchases while balancing the need to acquire highly nutritious food products in a variety of categories including dairy, meat and produce.
On any given day, but especially during the days of this health crisis, the health and vitality of the community must be a priority for all those who care for the most vulnerable. The foods provided to food banks via this grant program are critical components to the overall health and resiliency of our neighbors in need.
Every day, the team at EPFH sees with our own eyes the level of need there is and health experts have expressed concern that this situation will continue to take its toll on communities.
Author: Susan Goodell, CEO El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank
Goodell has a real passion for working with vulnerable populations and a solutions based approach to the issue of hunger in America.
After running a highly successful Food Bank in Detroit, Michigan, Susan accepted the job of Chief Executive Officer of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, the youngest Food Bank in the Feeding America network.
Ms. Goodell has 16 years of experience in the Food Banking Industry. Since starting at EPFH in January 2018, Ms. Goodell secured the highly competitive contract with the USDA and TDA National School Lunch Program, initiated the senior hunger program, and dramatically increased EPFH’s cold storage and secured two new refrigerated trucks from several large donors and grown food distribution from 10.5 million pounds to over 40 million pounds of food.
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