The Federal Role in Feeding the Hungry

Volunteers pack a CSFP box at the St. Louis Area Foodbank / Photo by Bethany Prange

It’s a question that often prompts debate.

“Should government have a role in helping families in need?”

The St. Louis Area Foodbank is blessed to receive support from a variety of sources.

The local community offers tremendous support through financial gifts and food donations. Whether it is an individual who hosts a food drive, a small business owner who writes us a $50 check, or a local retail store who donates a truckload of food, the Foodbank relies on the generosity of our community to help fight hunger.

The local donations are supplemented by the millions of pounds of food contributed annually by the national food industry. Major players like ConAgra, Kellogg’s and Kraft donate product to us on a fairly regular basis. Their generosity goes a long way in helping us fulfill our mission to feed hungry people.

Unfortunately, it is still simply not enough to meet the nutritional needs of the families we serve.

That’s where USDA programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) come into play. USDA commodities play an integral role in hunger relief throughout the country.

In our service territory alone, federal product represents about 40% of the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s annual distribution – nearly 9.7 million pounds.

Moreover, it is often the most nutritious product we receive. Items such as peanut butter, beef stew and canned fruits and vegetables help provide a balanced nutritional mix to the families we serve. Through these federal programs, our families are given access to food items which aren’t always easily accessible through food drives, such as frozen meats and dairy.

Children represent the largest segment of the population in need. The Foodbank provides food to more than 101,000 children a year, according to the Feeding America 2010 Hunger Study.

Our ability to ensure kids in need receive adequate nutrition – particularly during their most vulnerable years – is largely due to our participation in the TEFAP program.

Adults over the age of 65 represent another significant portion of the population in need. Our involvement in CSFP makes it possible for the Foodbank to deliver a box of food to more than 8,500 low-income seniors each month.

Many of these individuals rely on costly medication to help sustain quality of life. We hear from many of these seniors in need that they face the daily decision of having to choose medicine or meals. CSFP is an important program that helps make that decision a little less stressful.

Food is our most basic need. The types of food and quantities we consume have an impact on our overall wellbeing – whether we’re 8 or 80.

While discussions on the government’s role in helping those in need will most likely continue for decades to follow, we’re sure you will agree that when it comes to feeding our most vulnerable citizens, there simply is no debate.

 Matt Dace is senior vice president of the St. Louis Area Foodbank.


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