BATON ROUGE; Kevin and Renee are loving parents to their three children in West Carroll parish; Kevin works as a heavy equipment operator while Renee is in school to become a nurse. But throughout the COVID pandemic, Kevin’s hours have been cut in half, leaving them struggling to feed their children, Serenity, Elie, and Isabelle, for the first time. They now drive an hour each way to receive food from the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana in Monroe, to help close the gap.
While Louisiana has faced some of the highest rates of hunger in the country for years, the pandemic has pushed the crisis to an unprecedented level of need. An estimated 1 in 3 Louisianans are currently experiencing food insecurity, including nearly 1 in 2 households with children. Louisiana food banks are seeing a sustained 60% to 80% increase in need with many of those individuals being brand new to the emergency food system.
Since the first school closures and stay-at-home orders, food banks have been working on the frontlines, providing meals, groceries, and benefit assistance to thousands of families in need. Monetary and in-kind donations, rescued food, prepared meals, and USDA commodities through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) have allowed food banks to distribute millions of additional pounds of food to communities around the state since the pandemic began. In a typical year, TEFAP provides around 60 million pounds of fresh produce, dairy, meat, and non-perishable staples to Louisiana households in need. Now more than ever, TEFAP is a vital resource for our food banks & the families they serve throughout the COVID pandemic.
However, we are on the edge of food crisis. Beginning in January 2021, food banks across the country expect to see a 50% decline in USDA foods through TEFAP, equating to nearly 30 million pounds of food, or 22.7 million meals, lost across the Feeding Louisiana network alone. This sharp decline in food coupled with an unprecedented level of need would be devastating for Louisiana communities.
Congress has a critical opportunity to support Louisiana farmers, to support Louisiana food banks, and to support Louisiana families facing hunger. Congress must act to allocate additional funds to the USDA for emergency food purchase, storage, and distribution, for the duration of the public health crisis. Congress must also make a deep investment in our federal nutrition programs by boosting SNAP benefits by 15% for as long as the economy is recovering.
We are facing a hunger crisis, with levels of need not seen since the Great Depression. And now we face a significant and rapid decline in resources available to address it. Congress has a duty to act on behalf of families like Kevin and Renee’s to ensure that no American in need of food assistance is turned away when they need it most.
Feeding Louisiana provides a unified voice for Louisiana's hungry by providing short-term food relief while seeking long-term solutions to hunger through advocacy, education, and leadership. Feeding Louisiana is made up of the five Feeding America member food banks in Louisiana, serving all 64 parishes through a network of more than 900 community and faith-based organizations.
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