Working Smarter = Eating Better

July 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

As we enter the 4th day of the CBS-42 Food Drive, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “what items do you need most?”.

The short answer…
We ask for high-protein foods like tuna and peanut butter, and healthy cereals. It’s what the community wants and needs.

Here’s the long answer…
Our purchasing power is determined by community support, economic forces, and the availability of USDA products. We are one of hundreds of food banks across the US authorized to receive USDA commodities through the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), also known as TexCap.

The USDA commodities we get are determined by both the program’s mandatory food purchases and surplus or “bonus” commodities.

Remember the big government cheese distribution in the 1980s? That didn’t happen because the government wanted us to get more servings of calcium in our diet. Government warehouses were filled to the brim with cheese, and instead of letting it go bad, they distributed this surplus to needy Americans, and helped boost farm income.

Although TEFAP started as a temporary program to distribute surplus agricultural products, it evolved into a permanent program, with funding for administrative, packing and transportation costs. Through TEFAP, we receive a varied nutritional mix of foods including vegetables, fruits, oats, soups and more.

With the recent passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, TEFAP boasts $250 million in funding beginning in fiscal year 2009. While this improved funding is good news, food banks across the nation continue to suffer from the overall decrease in USDA commodities. Bonus commodities are at a 10-year low, with approximately a 70% decrease nationwide. Food that our community needs such as cereals, tuna, powdered milk, flour, cooking oil, and others are either not available through TEFAP, or are available in insufficient quantities for what we need to distribute. Yet, the need continues to rise.

So how do we respond?

  • We continue to work closely with local grocery stoes to make it even easier for them to donate food that may otherwise go to waste.
  • We’ve changed our purchasing policy to improve the quality of food distributed to the community. Yes, it’s more expensive, but we do not believe in risking the health of Central Texans – especially the seniors and young children who depend on us. Quality must be balanced with quantity.
  • We’ve asked the community to donate what our hungry neighbors needs most.

So feel confident in donating that pre-packaged bag at your Austin-area Randalls. We hope to make it easier for you to make a real difference.

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