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Efforts Underway to Get Food from US Farms to Americans in Need

2020-5-26

Food banks in the United States have struggled to meet increasing demand from people who cannot pay for food because they have lost their jobs. At the same time, farmers cannot sell much of their crop food, so many vegetables and meat from farm animals go to waste.

Now, some states are providing money to help pay for such food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, is spending $3 billion to help get farm crops to food banks.

“Nobody likes to see waste of good food,” said Mark Quandt. He is the executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.

But when the coronavirus spread forced restaurants and schools to close, demand for farm products dropped, leaving farmers with too great a food supply.

As food banks have struggled to meet soaring demand from people suddenly out of work because of the coronavirus outbreak, it has been especially troubling to see farmers have to bury produce, dump milk and euthanize hogs. Now some states are spending more
As food banks have struggled to meet soaring demand from people suddenly out of work because of the coronavirus outbreak, it has been especially troubling to see farmers have to bury produce, dump milk and euthanize hogs. Now some states are spending more

Farmers from Florida to California left their crops to die. Dairy farmers in Vermont and New York had to throw away millions of liters of milk. And animal farmers killed their animals that could not be processed for meat.

Now, as 39 million Americans have lost their jobs, many depend on food banks to feed them and their families at no cost.

In Florida, 12 food banks had to increase the food they provide from 6 million pounds of food per week to 10 million pounds.

A U.S. Census Bureau report found that more than 10 percent of families were not able to get enough food. Another report for the non-profit policy group Data Foundation says that 37 percent of those who lost their jobs did not have enough food in the past 30 days.

The USDA and private companies are trying to make sure that food that would have been wasted is now getting to food banks.

New York state created a $25 million program to help food banks buy local crops. Mark Quandt said he is planning to use the $4.3 million his food bank will receive to buy milk, cheese and other food.

Chris Noble has a dairy farm in northwestern New York State. He said the Nourish New York program bought some of the milk he would have thrown away. He worked with other dairy farmers in western New York to send their milk and cheese to a food bank in New York City.

Noble said he wants “to be able to meet the needs of our community with the food we produce and not see it go to waste.”

In Iowa, state officials and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have raised more than $130,000 to help pay to make pig meat for food banks. So far, 364 pigs have been donated.

“The last thing we want to do is waste anything,” said Kevin Rasmussen. He donated seven pigs from his northern Iowa farm to the program this month.

Other states, such as Florida and California, had existing programs to help get donated crops to food banks by paying part of the cost of harvesting them. Those programs are getting a lot of donations now. California is adding $2 million to the program.

The biggest effort is the $3 billion USDA program to buy crops for food banks. That program has been slowed by ethics issues. Critics are questioning the qualifications of several companies that received the first $1.2 billion worth of contracts.

Celia Cole of the Feeding Texas alliance of food banks said, “Some of the companies that got bids, people are kind of scratching their heads like ‘wait this isn’t a food distributor, why are they winning the award?’”

One of the companies that won a contract, for example, is a marriage ceremony planning business in San Antonio, Texas.

Brent Erenwert is chief of Brothers Produce, a Houston-based vegetable distributor. It sought a contract with the USDA but was denied. Erenwert said he is concerned that the USDA program will fall short of its goals because of the companies it chose.

“There’s just no way or shape this will help the farmer or the end user that’s going to need this product,” he said.

USDA officials said they fully believe the chosen companies can complete the job.

I’m Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

dairy - n. a place where cows are raised for their milk to be sold

milk - n. the product that cows from cows lactating

distributor - n. one who organizing sending things out to various people n.