Food advocates call on lawmakers for more funding

Food advocates say the federal money they’re already getting isn’t enough, now they’re calling on U.S. lawmakers to give them more.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 8:43 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont organizations that feed the hungry say that with much of the federal pandemic money allocated, they’re calling on U.S. lawmakers for more funding.

Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, is asking for $900 million. On the local level, both the Vermont Foodbank and Feeding Chittenden say the money is crucial.

“I think people are worried again about their budgets and one way to manage your budget is to go to a food distribution site,” said John Sayles of the Vermont Foodbank.

Thousands of Vermonters seek food from their local food shelves every month. Sayles says roughly 27% of Vermonters are still experiencing food insecurity. He says about 40% of the population they serve don’t qualify for state food benefits, so the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TFAP, is critical. The program allows the USDA to purchase staple food like pasta or canned goods directly and distribute it to food banks nationwide.

“That’s why we have gone to Congress and working with Feeding America and the 200 food banks that are feeding America, so we can increase the TFAP budget so that we can again increase the amount of food. I was just with my food bank colleagues from across the country in Louisville and everyone across the country is seeing the same things we are seeing here in Vermont,” said Sayles.

With stimulus checks, extra unemployment and child tax credits gone, food is once again on the back burner for many families.

“They are having to deal with rent and food and gas, and typically food is the first thing to get cut,” said Anna McMahon with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.

McMahon says food insecurity isn’t just going to disappear, so Feeding Chittenden needs to keep the food flowing for their community.

“Maintain that momentum when we are unsure where that funding is going to come from,” she said.

McMahon says that momentum comes from a few places, including their own programs that help rescue food and personal donations. But the staples like pasta and canned goods remain some of the most valuable items.

“The food that we receive from the USDA and TFAP through the Vermont Foodbank is critical,” said McMahon.

“Our partners out in the community are seeing no slackening in demand. In fact, many are seeing increases,” said Sayles.

McMahon says that stable food keeps them ticking as donations are not guaranteed.

“We rely heavily on donations from the community, and obviously as prices go up, that will affect how much people can donate,” she said.

In the midst of the national shortage of baby formula, they encouraged those with extra formula going unused, to donate it. They can also use extra produce from gardens during the summer months.

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