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Executive Director of the Regional Food Bank Testified Before House Agriculture Committee Today

May 8, 2012

WASHINGTON D.C. - Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of the Feeding America network of over 200 food banks, testified today before the House Agriculture Committee. At the hearing, Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Specialty Crop and Nutrition Programs, Bivens spoke about the growing need for food assistance and declining federal food commodities that food banks have experienced and urged the committee to protect nutrition programs from cuts.

“Our partner agencies have reported a 30 to 50 percent increase in demand for emergency food assistance in the most recent fiscal year, and a number of agencies have also recently indicated that 25 percent or more of the families they currently serve are first-time clients that have never had to ask for help until now,” Bivens said. “We simply cannot maintain this current level of distribution alongside increasing demands for our services with cuts to federal nutrition programs. While we understand the tremendous importance in balancing our nation’s budget, we request that you reject any cuts to federal nutrition programs.”

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides some of the most nutritious food that food banks distribute. Unfortunately, TEFAP actually declined markedly in this time of great need. The Feeding America network of more than 200 member food banks nationwide saw a 46 percent increase in the number of clients served from 2006 to 2010. Feeding America food banks saw TEFAP food decline by 30 percent in 2011, $173 million worth of nutritious USDA commodities.

“Without more federal support for TEFAP in the upcoming Farm Bill, both the Regional Food Bank and the entirety of America’s food banking system is at risk of falling behind in meeting the needs of Americans struggling to put food on their tables,” Bivens said.

Bivens also urged Congress to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP serves 46 million participants nationwide and is targeted to help our nation’s most vulnerable. 76 percent of SNAP households included a child, elderly person, or disabled person, and these households receive 84 percent of all SNAP benefits. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94 percent from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70 percent increase in participation over the same period.

“SNAP has had tremendous success in Oklahoma, and allows hundreds of thousands of our citizens to be able to achieve greater financial security and self-sufficiency,” Bivens continued. “Additionally, SNAP has brought significant economic benefits to Oklahoma, in that SNAP dollars are quickly spent in our local markets, whereas many SNAP recipients would otherwise be forced to turn to already overwhelmed emergency food pantries.”

More information about the hearing and witnesses is below.

Witnesses

Panel 1

  • Mr. Jerry Lee, Environmental Services Manager, Monrovia Growers, Cairo, Georgia
  • Mr. Michael Jarrard, President and COO, Mann Packing Company, Salinas, California
  • Mrs. Lisa Schacht, Owner/Operator, Schacht Family Farm and Market, Canal Winchester, Ohio; on behalf of Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association
  • Mr. Russell Libby, Executive Director, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Unity, Maine
  • Mr. Dan Richey, President and CEO, Riverfront Packing Company, Vero Beach, Florida; on behalf of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association

Panel 2

  • Mr. Rodney Bivens, Executive Director, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Dr. Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow Economic Studies Program, the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Ms. Stacy Dean, Vice President for Food Assistance Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, D.C.
  • Mr. Phil Blalock, Executive Director, National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs, Alexandria, Virginia

Please visit the following link to find out more information about the hearing, Formulation of the 2012 Farm Bill: Specialty Crop and Nutrition Programs: http://www.agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1578

For more information visit regionalfoodbank.org or call 405.972.1111. 

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is a private, 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that acts as a link through which the food industry and community may donate food and other goods. The products are then distributed to nearly 825 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In fiscal year 2011, the Food Bank distributed 46.2 million pounds of food and product to help the charitable community effectively feed people in need. Since its inception in 1980, the Food Bank has distributed more than 438 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.

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