The following is a message for all members of the Florida congressional delegation. If you are a member of Congress and represent a district in Florida, please read through this important message...
To: The Florida Congressional Delegation
August 23, 2022
Dear members of the Florida congressional delegation,
Due to the highest inflation in decades, countless Floridians are struggling to survive and put food on their tables. During this time of pressing need, food banks are facing a critical food shortage as food insecurity surges across our state and the nation. On behalf of Farm Share and food banks across Florida, I urge you to take action now by establishing additional temporary or permanent Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) funding and/or re-establishment of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program or similar equivalent to address this immediate need.
TEFAP-supported food banks are once again being heavily relied upon by families for life sustaining food with food insecurity surging more than 200% above base demand this spring. Unfortunately, the supply of TEFAP food has plummeted and continues to fall, resulting in an anticipated 340% decrease by the end of this year. Add to that continued supply chain issues and food commodity shortages on the private donation side, and it becomes a perfect storm for food banks.
Blue-collar workers, hospitality industry employees and small business owners are facing inflation-driven economic hardships that force them to choose between paying the rent, buying food, or putting gas in the car each month. With Florida’s inflation rate of 11% surpassing even the national average of 8.6%, these Floridians need our help but we do not currently have the resources to adequately respond.
During the COVID pandemic, food banks became the backbone of the recovery effort by ensuring that people had the food and nutrition they needed to survive, stay healthy, and eventually get back to work. We were able to fill this gap thanks to the efforts of Congress to make sure we had access to the food we needed through supplemental TEFAP funding and the Farmers to Family Food Box Program. Unfortunately, each of these programs has been discontinued, and the food supply has reverted to 2018 levels despite demand being double what
it was then.
In addition to food supply issues, the current 41-year-high level of inflation is directly hurting food banks’ ability to operate. Unexpected expenses, like diesel fuel prices, utility costs, and wage costs, have drastically altered food banks’ operating budgets. Unlike for-profit companies, we cannot pass these increased expenses on to our customers. These factors further hinder food banks’ ability to acquire and distribute more food, as it costs more to move one pound of food
today than it did a year ago, reducing efficiencies and further decreasing overall food distribution efforts.
Reducing inflation, eliminating supply chain backlogs, and overcoming commodity shortages will no doubt take time, and things will likely get worse before they get better. But to ensure that hard-working American families and the less fortunate don’t go hungry in the short term, it is crucial for Congress to immediately provide supplemental TEFAP funding for food banks in Florida and nationwide. This is the only solution that can address this problem in real time and
provide a backstop until the world truly returns to normal.
Included as part of this letter, are supporting comments from a few of Farm Share’s large scale partner food banks located throughout Florida.
Stephen R. Shelley
Chief Executive Officer
Farm Share, Inc.
Supporting messages from our partners in Florida:
“Inflation is impacting everyone but is especially challenging to those living near or below the poverty line. Midwest Food Bank’s nonprofit partners are seeing an increased need – up 25% on average across our agencies. The current economic cycle is impacting Midwest Food Bank. Supply Chain fluctuations are making food donations less predictable, and the higher cost of fuel has increased the cost of procuring shelf-stable food. MFB continues to seek food from multiple sources to ensure we can serve our agencies and food recipients to the very best of our ability.”
Eric Hodel, CEO of Midwest Food Bank
“Currently, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding food insecurity in Florida. Firstly, most of the individuals we are serving are fully employed and are at times working extra jobs in order to get by. Floridians are not under food insecurity due to high levels of unemployment, it is due to the skyrocketing cost of living in Florida that has continued to squeeze hardworking families from being able to be economically stable and food secure. Due to high costs of housing, fuel and food, a family of 4 with a household income of $65K is having a very hard time paying bills and putting food on the table on a daily basis. In addition to hardworking families, Florida’s food banks are being squeezed by the very same economic situation.
The level of demand for food assistance is so high that we are concerned about the symptoms of high levels of food insecurity within our communities. Food banks need food and economic support from congress to ensure that issues like high levels of crime, mental health issues among children and seniors, and low levels of production and learning among Florida’s students are not prevalent throughout Florida. When one-fourth of all individuals under food insecurity are children, it is alarming that we are at a 200% increase in demand from pre-pandemic levels of food insecurity and a state so rich in agriculture.
Florida’s food banks are asking congress to be fair and to look at the data and allow the facts to guide policy this year. Florida’s food banks need policy changes that will allow us to receive food from the USDA’s TEFAP program and significant funding to respond to the spike in demand for food assistance in our communities. We are experiencing an elevated level of demand here in Palm Beach County, and this issue is happening in all 67 counties in Florida.”
Jamie Kendall, CEO of Palm Beach County Food Bank
“Chabad of the Space & Treasure Coasts has been the beneficiary for years of kindhearted individuals to help shoulder the huge responsibility and holy endeavor to feed the hungry in Brevard County regardless of race, color, or background. We cannot thank enough the amazing organization Farm Share, which has been a savior in terms of providing food for our organization to reach thousands, especially over the past few years.
I cannot emphasize enough how critical it is for the federal government to step in to help food banks now rather than later. The shortage of food has impacted the ability for us and our resources like Farm Share to provide food to the masses as well as agencies and all those in need.”
Rabbi Zvi Konikov, President Chabad of the Space Coast, Inc.
“Our communities are facing more challenges than ever due to the economy, housing crisis, and food supply chain issues. Food prices and transportation costs are high, and our food banks and food pantries are having grave difficulties in meeting the demand. Local communities and charitable organizations are not able to support the demand and keep food flowing through the food system. We urge Congress to immediately strengthen and increase The Emergency Assistance Food Program (TEFAP), the backbone of the charitable food system now, rather than waiting for the 2023 Farm Bill.”
United Way of Palm Beach County