Food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries across the state are seeing a sharp increase in demand for emergency food assistance as more and more people struggle in today’s economic environment. These agencies provide a much-needed safety net for many people.
This increase has also kept our department’s Food Distribution Division extra busy delivering USDA meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables to many of these hunger relief agencies. The Food Distribution Division administers the federal TEFAP program, which stands for The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Through the program, commodities purchased by USDA are distributed across the state to agencies that help feed the food insecure.
That program is likely to get even busier in the coming year, according to Gary Gay, director of the Food Distribution Division. National spending on TEFAP increased from $190 million to $250 million from 2008 to 2009, and another $100 million has been earmarked for the program in the economic stimulus bill.
In North Carolina, Gay expects the program to nearly triple in the coming year, meaning more commodities will be arriving at the division’s warehouses in Butner and Salisbury. From there, the food will be loaded onto NCDA&CS trucks and transported to local agencies. NCDA&CS manages a small fleet of 12 tractor-trailers that transport food across the state, and also to the state’s 115 school systems. In 2008, Gay estimates his division moved $9 million worth of food commodities through TEFAP. This year he anticipates moving close to $30 million worth of commodities.
Two things are certain: The food won’t be sitting in the warehouse long and trucks will be rolling as staff work to quickly move products to sites where it can help people in need.