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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Funding for Food Banks

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today spearheaded a letter signed by 13 of his Senate colleagues urging the Obama Administration to provide a sustained level of funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program or TEFAP which provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to those low-income Americans in need at no cost to them. Federal support for TEFAP is estimated to drop off by at least $100 million this fiscal year.

"As the holiday season draws near, countless Americans are eagerly anticipating celebrations filled with family, friends, festivity and, of course, food. Unfortunately, for more than 50 million of our neighbors, the holidays represent something entirely different -- yet another reminder of days spent not knowing where their next meals may come from," the Senators wrote. "Thanks to the Nation's network of food banks, millions of those at risk of hunger across this nation will not go without food during this coming holiday season. However, without a sustained commitment from the Federal government to provide an increased level of support for emergency food assistance throughout FY 2011, our Nation's food banks may find themselves ill equipped to meet an increasing demand throughout the coming new year."

In Federal Fiscal Year 2010, TEFAP provided nearly $600 million worth of nutritious foods and more than $100 million in funding assistance to help transport and deliver that food to those low-income Americans in need. While a portion of this funding came because of spending authorized and mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill, nearly half of it came because of either funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or through administrative actions taken by the Obama Administration to help shore up the emergency food assistance network.

Unfortunately, even while there is every indication that the number of people in need of emergency food assistance will remain at unprecedented levels as long as the economy continues to recover and unemployment rates remain at current levels, Federal support for TEFAP is estimated to drop off by at least $100 million this fiscal year. This dramatic decrease in funding will severely affect efforts to combat the growing need for emergency food assistance. Without additional funding, too many of the Nation's food banks will be facing the prospect of empty or seriously depleted food stocks in the coming year.

According to a report by Feeding America, 37 million people, or one in eight Americans, are receiving emergency food assistance each year through the Feeding America network of food banks. This represents a staggering increase of 46 percent over the organization's previous findings from just four years ago. As a result of this unprecedented increase in demand, approximately 5.7 million people per week are now receiving emergency food assistance from an agency served by a Feeding America food bank.

Senator Casey was joined by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI),
Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John Kerry (D-MA) in sending the letter to President Obama.

Full text of the letter is below.

Dear President Obama:

As the holiday season draws near, countless Americans are eagerly anticipating celebrations filled with family, friends, festivity, and, of course, food. Unfortunately, for more than 50 million of our neighbors, the holidays represent something entirely different -- yet another reminder of days spent not knowing where their next meals may come from. Thanks to the Nation's network of food banks, millions of those at risk of hunger across this nation will not go without food during this coming holiday season. However, without a sustained commitment from the Federal government to provide an increased level of support for emergency food assistance throughout FY 2011, our Nation's food banks may find themselves ill equipped to meet an increasing demand throughout the coming new year.

Earlier this year, Feeding America -- the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity with a network of more than 200 food banks serving over 61,000 local food assistance agencies in every state -- released the results of a study that took an in-depth look at the clients they serve. According to this report, Hunger in America 2010, 37 million people, or one in eight Americans, are receiving emergency food assistance each year through the Feeding America network of food banks. This represents a staggering increase of 46 percent over the organization's previous findings from just four years ago. As a result of this unprecedented increase in demand, approximately 5.7 million people per week are now receiving emergency food assistance from an agency served by a Feeding America food bank.

Data reported by the Federal government mirrors what food banks across the country are seeing. Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report showing that 50 million Americans were at risk of hunger, meaning they did not have enough money or resources to get food for at least some period during the 2009 calendar year. While the number of people in America facing hunger in 2009 only increased by one million people over 2008, it is an increase of more than 14 million people since the economic recession began in 2007. With unemployment rates in 2009 having increased each month, and reaching double digits by the end of the calendar year, there is no doubt that the unprecedented food insecurity numbers for 2009 would have been much worse had it not been for the increased support for Federal food assistance programs provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

While America's network of emergency food providers annually receives generous support in the form of food and funds from a wide variety of private donors at both the national and local levels, this network would not be able to continue serving those in need were it not for a significant investment provided annually by the Federal government. This program, known as the Emergency Food Assistance Program or TEFAP, in Federal Fiscal Year 2010 provided nearly $600 million worth of nutritious foods and more than $100 million in funding assistance to help transport and deliver that food to those low-income Americans in need at no cost to them. While a portion of this funding came because of spending authorized and mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill, nearly half of it came because of either funding provided through ARRA or through administrative actions taken by your Administration to help shore up the emergency food assistance network.

Unfortunately, even while there is every indication that the number of people in need of emergency food assistance will remain at unprecedented levels as long as the economy continues to recover and unemployment rates remain at current levels, Federal support for TEFAP is estimated to drop off by at least $100 million this fiscal year. This dramatic decrease in funding will severely affect efforts to combat the growing need for emergency food assistance. Without additional funding, too many of the Nation's food banks will be facing the prospect of empty or seriously depleted food stocks in the coming year. If the nation's food shelves go bare, millions of our neighbors will face the prospect of going without adequate access to the food needed to nourish themselves and their families.

As our nation continues on the path to recovery from the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, our Nation's food banks, and the hard working American men and women, seniors, and children they serve, desperately need your immediate help during this season of sharing and hope. In light of the urgent circumstances they are facing, we respectfully urge your Administration to make a commitment in FY 2011 to provide a sustained level of funding for TEFAP that is absolutely no less than the level of support provided for TEFAP in FY 2010.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request and for your ongoing support and dedication to efforts to help end hunger in America.

Sincerely,

Bob Casey
Frank R. Lautenberg
Jack Reed
Ron Wyden
Jeff Merkley
Kirsten Gillibrand
Jeff Bingaman
Daniel K. Akaka
Patrick Leahy
Arlen Specter
Patty Murray
Sheldon Whitehouse
Bernie Sanders
John Kerry


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