Right now, many of our friends and neighbors across the Southern Tier are choosing between putting food on the table and paying bills, like rent and utilities. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is proud to be working alongside other Feeding America member food banks as part of the nation’s largest charitable domestic response to hunger. Yet, we know food banks cannot meet the need for emergency food assistance on their own.
We are deeply relieved that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress on Dec. 21 includes an increase in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as additional funding so we can continue to meet the increased need we are seeing every day. As our country continues to weather a once-in-a-generation public health and economic emergency, the bipartisan agreement is an important step to help provide the food assistance our neighbors need, but further action will also be necessary in the coming months.
“The Food Bank of the Southern Tier and our network of 165 partner agencies continue to help fill the meal gap left by lost wages and record-breaking grocery prices in recent months,” said Natasha Thompson, President & CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. “Through this work, we know that our community is experiencing unprecedented levels of food insecurity. While our team has risen to this challenge, the fact is that SNAP is the most efficient way to both provide families with the funds they need to purchase food and support our local economy during what we anticipate will be a long recovery. For every meal the Food Bank provides, SNAP provides nine, and we strongly support the legislation’s increase in benefits.”
Additionally, the Food Bank supports the bill’s inclusion of $400 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) — one of the largest sources of food for food banks. This funding is critical as the Food Bank prepares for a scheduled 80 percent reduction in food received from the government while at the same time working to meet the 25 percent increase in demand locally since the start of the pandemic.
The bill includes additional critical investments in federal nutrition programs, including important funding for school nutrition programs and the expansion of online SNAP benefits. We also support the expansion of Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) to children under six deemed to be “enrolled” in childcare programs. We are also pleased to see investments in senior nutrition and WIC.
The bipartisan legislation will provide much-needed short-term relief. As we enter 2021, we know the need for food assistance will continue. While this legislation is a welcome step forward, the government will need to take further action to ensure that our neighbors do not slip further into crisis in the coming months. We strongly support the nutrition provisions in this bill and believe they are a critical step toward ensuring people have the food they need to learn, succeed, and thrive.
To learn more about the Food Bank’s advocacy efforts, click here.