Commentary: This holiday season, we need Congress to help families and farmers

Commentary: This holiday season, we need Congress to help families and farmers
December 29
13:52 2021

By Eric A. Aft

For many families here in Northwest North Carolina, two years of uncertainty around jobs, day care, and protecting the health of loved ones have taken a toll. But now families face another unexpected challenge – rising costs that only exacerbate existing struggles. Havoc in the food supply chain, induced and worsened by the pandemic, is making everything from pork chops to peanut butter more expensive. At Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, we and our on-the ground partner food assistance agencies see the consequences to the many local families we serve. 

Having food should be the last thing on any child’s mind, and parents should not have to worry about how they will put food on the table. Yet, even as many of us are planning for holiday feasts, millions of families continue to suffer from hunger in the U.S., and the problem remains especially dire in our rural communities, which make up the majority of the 18 counties served by Second Harvest Food Bank.

That is why it is critical for our lawmakers to invest in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which supports Second Harvest Food Bank and the 430 + food assistance organizations we partner with to serve your community.

USDA data show that one in three people who live in households at risk of hunger earn too much money to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal nutrition programs. Many of these families turn to the Second Harvest Food Bank network of emergency food assistance programs that depend on programs like TEFAP.

TEFAP is an innovative program that brings food from U.S. farms and producers to Feeding America Food Banks, the local food assistance organizations we serve and, ultimately, families facing hunger. The program offers more than 120 nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, milk, cheese, and whole grains. It is the cornerstone of food supply for Feeding America’s network of more than 200 food banks, which includes Second Harvest Food Bank. In 2020, the Feeding America network distributed 1.2 billion pounds of food to rural America, including 465 million pounds of food provided by federal programs like TEFAP.

Even with the vital support TEFAP has offered throughout the pandemic, Second Harvest and our local partners recognize the reality that many families have not yet been able to get back on their feet. Food insecurity remains a serious and persistent problem. And that means we have our work cut out for us.

Second Harvest Food Bank and our local partners are proud of our work to bring healthy food from TEFAP to families in need every day, but we can’t do it alone. We need leaders in Congress and the White House to protect funding for this program that produces dual benefits for U.S. farmers and producers and families facing hunger.

We urge members of the community here in Forsyth County to contact their Senators Tillis and Burr and Representatives Manning and McHenry to remind them of how TEFAP makes a difference for children and families during tough times.

The holidays are an important time for families to come together and give back. Our community is a family that must unite now to take care of our neighbors facing hunger.

Eric A. Aft is the chief executive officer for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC.  

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