Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.
Other factors cited include, among other things, the lack of a rise in the aid given to food bank:
Food bank operators are lobbying for passage of a farm bill currently stalled in the Senate that would raise emergency aid for food banks to $250 million a year, from $140 million. That figure has remained steady since 2002.
I believe Zezima may actually be referring to the Senate equivalent of the Feeding America’s Families Act of 2007 that can be found in the Farm Bill (which is also the bill that includes addressing the issues with Food Stamps that Jim McGovern and Jo Ann Emerson, among others had illustrated back in May when they took the Food Stamp Challenge… I should point out that since then, others have taken the challenge, including Keith Ellison and Chris Van Hollen). The Farm Bill is now in the Senate (on the legislative calendar). Tom Harkin, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, introduced the bill, and there’s some good information on the Agriculture Committee, but if anyone has any good info to add to this, please feel free to put it in the comments, as I’m not the greatest expert on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
However, while hopefully the Farm Bill will go through without cuts to any of these important programs, there are many other problems that Zezima cites, including supermarket efficiency and supermarkets selling leftover foods to discount stores (in terms of getting affordable food out there, it’s a help, but that’s not helping the food banks any…). So even with a revised Farm Bill in place for the future, there are still going to be major issues in terms of getting food to food banks.
So what can we do? There are many viable options. Letting your Senator know about the importance of the Farm Bill in terms of the hunger provisions (in particular the food stamps and the Emergency Food Assistance Programs (food banks)) is important. Getting involved in your local food bank is also a good idea for those people who want to do that (Second Harvest seems to have a good listing of food banks, including a state and zip code search). The easist thing you can probably do is just give food, through local food drives or directly to the local food bank. You’ll have to check with your local food bank on their policies, and check municipal websites (based on personal experience, the Boston city website has a good list of where food can be dropped off as part of their Can Share program.
So look around your pantry for those canned goods and nonperishables that you don’t need, and give. 🙂