Following the decision to cut a federal emergency food assistance program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama (CFBCA) is working to find new ways to feed the community.
CFBCA, a leading food bank in Alabama, anticipates that it will lose 1.4-2.4 million kilograms of food donations starting in 2021 after the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) program comes to an end. The program was designed to distribute food to food banks across the country.
This is especially concerning to food bank workers in a state like Alabama where 17 percent of all residents and 25 percent of children are food insecure.
Brett Meredith, CEO of CFBCA says that they anticipate a 50 percent decrease in stock in 2021.
This comes at a time where the food bank has seen an all-time high in demand for its services. In 2019, CFBCA reports that they distributed 7.4 million kilograms of food through its 258 member agencies. This year, they anticipate that they will have distributed 9.7 million kilograms of food, a 30.5 percent increase in demand.
Meredith says that TEFAP helped bridge the gap in this demand. Now, however, CFBCA will have to find other ways to meet the needs of clients. He tells Food Tank, “We have worked hard to fill this gap by making strategic purchases to keep our warehouses stocked during these next six months. This is going to be a critical time and we have to ensure that our purchases make sense.”
Meredith explains that sensible purchases are items that are at a reasonable cost and have a long shelf life. Items include proteins like canned tuna and canned chicken as well as with canned green vegetables. Even with these tactics, Meredith estimates that next year the food bank will have to spend between US$1 million to US$1.5 million more on food than they did this year.
But CFBCA is trying to find new ways to meet the growing demand for food. The recent COVID-19 relief bill has allowed CFBCA to recapture some of the food they will lose without TEFAP.
Meredith also says that the community is offering support. Recently, CFBCA received 52,163 kilograms of food from a recent drive in their community along with a US$50,000 donation from Wells Fargo. Many local organizations and companies are also offering products to CFBCA at discounted rates. Meredith explains that these acts are greatly appreciated.
Thanks to this support, CFBCA was able to create 12,000-holiday boxes—up from 2,500 last year—which include lean proteins, beans, rice, and pasta.
“We are doing everything we can to meet the needs of the people in our community and region. This community was hit hard by the pandemic,” Meredith tells Food Tank.
Photo courtesy of CFBCA.