OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – When the food bank has struggled to meet the soaring demand from people who suddenly quit work because …
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – When the food bank has struggled to meet the soaring demand from people who suddenly quit work because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was very disturbing to see farmers having to bury production, dump milk, and put pigs to sleep.
Now some states are providing more money to help pay for food that might be wasted, the US Department of Agriculture is spending $ 3 billion to help bring agricultural products to the food bank, and a senator is looking for $ 8 billion more to buy agricultural produce for food bank.
“Obviously no one likes to see a waste of good food,” said Mark Quandt, executive director of the Northeastern Regional Food Bank of New York. “And to know that farmers put so much work, money and energy into producing products. It must break their hearts to then have to throw away such a product or throw it away or hijack it. “
The farmers were left without many choices after the closure of restaurants and schools suddenly ended many requests for the food they produce.
Thousands of hectares of Florida fruit and vegetables and California leafy vegetables have been plowed or left to rot. Meanwhile, dairy farmers in Vermont, New York and Wisconsin must dispose of millions of gallons of milk. Pig farmers are being hit by a decrease in demand and the temporary closure of several slaughterhouses, forcing them to put the pigs to sleep which cannot be processed into smoked meat and pork.
This coincided with a surge in demand at the food bank, with almost 39 million people suddenly losing their jobs. In Florida, for example, 12 food banks must struggle to increase shipments from 6 million pounds of food per week to 10 million pounds.
A US Census Bureau survey found that more than 10% of US households reported not being able to get enough food at a time or often, and a survey for the Data Foundation found that 37% of unemployed Americans had run out of food in the past. month.
Thanks to various government and private efforts, at least some of the food that will be wasted is now sent to the people who need it.
The state of New York created a $ 25 million program this spring so the food bank can buy locally made agricultural products. Quandt said he had planned to use the $ 4.3 million that his food bank would receive to buy milk, cheese, yogurt, apple sauce, grape juice, and other products.
“This will be very helpful,” he said.
Chris Noble, who owns a dairy farm about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Rochester, said the New York Nourish program gave him an outlet for some milk dumped by his cage and provided money to cover the costs. He works with other farmers in western New York to send dairy products to a food bank in New York City.
“It feels bad to see our life’s work in vain like that,” said Noble. “To be able to meet the needs of our society with the food we produce and not see it in vain greatly impacts.”
In Iowa, state officials and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have raised more than $ 130,000 to help pay processing pigs to supply meat to food banks. This effort gives pig farmers like Kevin Rasmussen an outlet so they don’t have to put their animals to sleep but it doesn’t compensate them. So far, 364 pigs have been donated.
“The last thing we want to do is get rid of anything,” said Rasmussen, who donated seven pigs from her ranch in northern Iowa for this month’s program. “Everyone does everything they can to keep animals from putting to sleep and throwing away products.”
Other states, such as Florida and California, have programs in place to help donate crops to food banks by paying a portion of their harvest costs. The programs are getting a boost from donations now and California is adding $ 2 million to the state budget for its programs.
The biggest effort is a $ 3 billion federal program aimed at buying fresh products, milk and meat and sending them to food banks. The program was slowed by questions about several companies that received an initial $ 1.2 billion contract.
“Some companies are getting offers, people are kind of scratching their heads like” wait, this is not a food distributor, why do they win awards? “” Said Celia Cole, of the Texas Food Feeding Association.
One of the companies that received the most attention was the San Antonio event and wedding planning company called CRE8AD8 which received one of the largest contracts, valued at around $ 39 million. Several large and well-known food distribution companies were excluded from bidding for small companies.
Brent Erenwert, CEO of Brothers Produce, a Houston-based product distributor who signed up but did not get a contract, said he was worried the USDA program would fail to achieve its goals because the companies gave the contract.
“We are facing failure here,” Erenwert said. “There is no way or form this will help farmers or end users who will need this product.”
USDA officials said they believed the chosen company could complete the work.
Separately, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has proposed spending $ 8 billion on fresh produce grown in 20 states and providing plants for food banks. The proposal will give money to food banks to buy fruits, vegetables, and nuts directly from farmers.
See more about coronavirus AP coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
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