A quarter of adults have eaten less or skipped meals because they lacked the money to buy food, said an antihunger group on Monday in calling for expansion of food assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. The largest U.S. farm group and a food bank network suggested that the USDA should create a voucher system to get farm-fresh food directly to nearby food banks.
Democratic leaders in Congress also called for an increase in SNAP benefits as lawmakers wrangled over an expansion of coronavirus relief. “We cannot abandon those who are facing a life-and-death struggle to put food on the table,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
A poll commissioned by the nonprofit Hunger Free America said 24 percent of adults skipped meals or cut portions for lack of money and that 37 percent of parents ate less or skipped meals during the past month because they did not have enough money. Group leader Joel Berg said charities could not meet the rising demand for food.
“We need a massive, coordinated federal, state, and local government response that dramatically expands government food safety net programs and uses National Guard units and national service participants to ramp up home meal deliveries,” he said.
At the same time food banks are inundated, some producers are plowing under fruits and vegetables or pouring milk down the drain because of shrinking consumer demand, said president Zippy Duvall of the American Farm Bureau Federation and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive of Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks nationwide, in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“The (Agriculture) Department has the opportunity to help address both unfortunate consequences described above through a voucher program that would deepen the relationship s between farmers and food banks, allowing them to work directly with one another instead of relying on third parties and what is sometimes a longer pathway to get food from farms to food bank shelves,” said Babineaux-Fontenot and Duvall.
Vouchers would allow farmers to recoup some of their costs while speeding delivery of perishable food to hungry families, said the farm group.
Today’s quick hits, April 15, 2020
Qualified support for SNAP increase (Ag Insider): Senate Finance chairman Chuck Grassley said on a teleconference he could support a 15-percent increase in SNAP benefits “if it was on a temporary basis to get us through the pandemic,” but he opposes a permanent increase.
Tyson workers in Iowa getting sicker (KETV): An outbreak of Covid-19 at a Tyson plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, reached 86 cases.
Older rural residents at risk for coronavirus (Carsey): More than 26 percent of rural Americans are over age 65, a rate that is 5 percentage points higher than metropolitan areas, and rural residents have higher levels of chronic health conditions as well as higher hunger rates, “all of which makes them more vulnerable to contracting [Covid-19].”
Having trouble finding flour? (The Counter): Though it’s taking time for flour companies to adjust to an all-retail market, empty baking aisles don’t indicate a nationwide flour shortage.
Corn for ethanol down 500 million bushels (farmdoc Daily Live): By reducing gasoline demand, the coronavirus pandemic could reduce corn-for-ethanol usage by 500 to 550 million bushels, “roughly a 10 percent loss in corn ethanol grind,” said economist Scott Irwin of the University of Illinois during a webinar.
One shift a day at Cargill beef plant (Meatingplace): Cargill will run one shift a day, instead of the usual two, at a beef slaughter plant in High River, Alberta, to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, with slaughter dropping to 1,500 head a day.