As food banks struggle to keep up with dramatic increases in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers and ranchers are eager to work with the Agriculture Department to bridge the supply gap and get farm products to those in need, according to a letter from the American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America.
The organizations praised USDA’s leadership through this crisis and offered recommendations for additional steps to ensure food banks across America are stocked, which would allow farmers and ranchers to expand on existing partnerships with food banks and respond to shifting demands and pressing needs. While demand has increased across the supply chain and store shelves have emptied from panic buying, food banks are seeing as much as a 100% increase in demand.
According to AFBF and Feeding America’s proposal, however, this demand can be met by redirecting supply from farmers and ranchers who have lost other markets, such as restaurants and tourism businesses due to closures and stay-at-home orders, by implementing a USDA-run voucher system. This plan would allow farmers and ranchers to work directly with food banks to get farm-fresh products quickly to families in need, while also preventing food waste and helping farmers recoup some of their production costs at a time when they are fighting to hold on.
“This is an opportunity for USDA to act quickly to produce a win for food banks and a win for farmers,” the letter states. “It’s a chance for government to serve as a facilitator while clearing bureaucracy and red tape, which fits well within the philosophy you have followed in your leadership of the department.”
View the letter here.