Moran requests federal support for America’s food banks during pandemic

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) this week urged U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to ensure the stability of the nation’s food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has caused severe economic stress across the country,” Sen. Moran wrote in an April 13 letter sent to Secretary Perdue. “This, in turn, has caused a large increase in the number of Americans who are relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families.”

Sen. Moran’s home state of Kansas, for instance, has seen “unprecedented demand and long lines,” according to his letter, with Harvesters, the food bank network in the Kansas City area, seeing its largest order-processing day in its 40-year history at the end of March, according to his letter.

“With current supplies, food banks are not equipped to handle this influx of customers,” wrote Sen. Moran.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should expedite food purchases and allow maximum flexibility in distributing food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and use Section 32 funds for commodity purchases, storage and distribution by food banks during the pandemic, according to the senator’s letter.

“Congress has designated $850 million to TEFAP in an effort to provide food banks with the supplies they need as part of Phases II and III of the coronavirus recovery packages,” wrote Sen. Moran. “However, food banks do not expect to receive food from this funding until late June or July.

“At the same time,” he wrote, “many food banks expect to run out of existing TEFAP supplies in the next two to four weeks. Because of this, I ask that you fully use USDA’s authority to expedite purchases of TEFAP foods and provide maximum flexibility to food banks in distributing the food.”

USDA also should proactively make states aware of their ability to request permission to operate the Disaster Household Distribution program to help speed assistance to communities, wrote Sen. Moran.

“We must do all we can to help food banks meet the unprecedented challenge of providing meals to a growing number of Americans in need and provide support to our agricultural producers who have lost markets for their food during this pandemic,” the lawmaker wrote.