Augusta Free Press: Spanberger urges focus on food insecurity caused by COVID-19 response

AUGUSTA FREE PRESS

Rep. Abigail Spanberger is pressing the USDA to strengthen its efforts to respond to growing food shortages and heightened demand at U.S food banks as a result of the COVID-19 response.

Recent reporting found that the USDA allowed millions of pounds of American-grown produce to rot in the fields, even as working families and seniors struggle to make ends meet during this crisis. According to a Politico story earlier this week, the USDA took more than a month to buy this surplus produce, even as food banks across the country see surging demand, growing shortages, and a steep drop in donations.

Earlier this month, Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of food banks, projected a $1.4 billion shortfall over the next six months.

In a call with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, Spanberger pressed Secretary Perdue on the USDA’s strategy going forward to support crop and livestock producers facing declining prices for their products and supply chain issues amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as how it intends to respond to the urgent needs of U.S. food banks using American produce.

“In this moment of uncertainty, parents are losing their jobs, families are dipping into their savings, and wage workers are seeing reduced hours, which means putting food on the table can be difficult. In response, the staff and volunteers at Central Virginia’s food banks have worked tirelessly to make sure that no family goes hungry — but unfortunately, demand is soaring. In Chesterfield County alone, we’re seeing a mile-long line of our neighbors waiting for food donations from a local food pantry,” said Spanberger, D-Va.

“During yesterday’s call with Secretary Perdue, I made clear that the USDA must address supply chain issues, provide urgent assistance to farmers, and use its resources to meet the nutrition needs of families facing financial hardships. I’d like to thank Secretary Perdue for taking time to answer questions directly from our Committee, and I’ll keep fighting for the families, children, and seniors in our district who are experiencing food insecurity amid this public health crisis.”

During his phone call with the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, Secretary Perdue also provided an update about the distribution of federal assistance to crop and livestock producers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including through the rollout of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program program.

Following its creation as part of the Spanberger-supported CARES Act, the CFAP program is intended to distribute $19 billion to provide immediate relief to farmers and ranchers, protect the food supply chain, and address the needs of community food banks.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Spanberger has worked to address food security issues in Central Virginia caused by COVID-19. Last month, Spanberger helped lead a successful bipartisan push to fix previous USDA guidance that unnecessarily put immunocompromised students at risk during school meal pick-ups.

Spanberger and her office have also compiled a Food Assistance Guide with information for Central Virginia families related to food assistance programs, free school meal pick-ups, food pantry locations, and additional resources. Click here to download the guide.

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