U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to make emergency purchases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to ensure food banks in New Mexico and across the country are able to help families in need. TEFAP buys food and makes it available to agencies, such as New Mexico’s Human Services Department, which work with the state’s major food banks to distribute to food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. In a letter, Udall, Heinrich and a bipartisan group of 20 other senators urged Vilsack to use existing USDA funds to make bonus purchases of food commodities on behalf of TEFAP in order to make up for its limited food purchases this fiscal year.
“The need for emergency food assistance has outpaced supply at a time of continued elevated unemployment and underemployment, increased food and fuel costs, and reduced funding for TEFAP storage and distribution, increasing the challenges facing food banks. Thirty-seven million people— one in eight Americans— are now receiving emergency food assistance each year through the nation’s food banks,” the Senators wrote. “With the millions of families across the country continuing to struggle to make ends meet in the wake of the recession, TEFAP commodities are critical to emergency food providers like food banks.”
“Child hunger is a serious problem facing New Mexico. With the highest rate of child food insecurity in the nation, I’m committed to supporting local food programs that provide healthy meals for children and families in need,” Udall said. “In order to do that, we must ensure our food banks and other programs have the resources to help families through hard times. I look forward to Secretary Vilsack’s reply to our request, and I look forward to working with him for New Mexico families.”
“Too many children in our state go to bed hungry. We must ensure New Mexico food banks have the necessary resources to effectively provide and distribute healthy meals to children and families in need,” Heinrich said. “I am hopeful Secretary Vilsack will heed our call for these emergency purchases to help New Mexico families struggling in difficult times.”
According to Feeding America, almost one in three New Mexico children does not have consistent access to food. The Food Depot in Northern New Mexico reported a 30 percent increase in demand for food assistance since the economic downturn. While our economy continues to recover, too many food banks face the prospect of empty or seriously depleted food stocks without additional food supplies.