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Published July 01, 2011, 01:35 PM

Conrad asks USDA to boost resources to emergency food program

WASHINGTON - In an effort to help farmers and ensure food banks in North Dakota and throughout the nation can serve those affected by rising food prices and the economic downturn, Senator Kent Conrad is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to boost resources to a key federal food aid program.

WASHINGTON - In an effort to help farmers and ensure food banks in North Dakota and throughout the nation can serve those affected by rising food prices and the economic downturn, Senator Kent Conrad is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to boost resources to a key federal food aid program.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Conrad urged USDA to direct existing funding to increase the availability of resources from the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Senator Conrad added that the funding will help serve those affected by the flooding in North Dakota and natural disasters in many other regions across the country.

"The floods we have experienced across North Dakota have left many people without homes and without food," Senator Conrad said. "Food banks are stepping in with assistance, and the federal government should do what it can to make sure those shelves remain stocked. The Emergency Food Assistance Program supports our farmers and feeds families in need. USDA should shift existing resources into this important program."

TEFAP provides food banks with healthy, nutritious, American-grown food commodities. These are sent to food banks, which provide meals at no cost to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief. In 2010, TEFAP provided approximately $655 million worth of healthy and nutritious foods. This program provides about 25 percent of the total national support for food banks.

Many food banks in North Dakota have been flooded, including those operated by Faith United Methodist Church in Minot and Peace Lutheran Church in Burlington. The Great Plains Food Bank of Fargo, which utilizes the TEFAP program, estimates that 15 or more truck-loads of food will be distributed to the Minot region. In partnership with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and River of Life Church, the Great Plains Food Bank shipped shelf-stable meals, snacks, and other items for mass feeding to Minot on June 27th. Additional loads will be prepared and sent as needed.

Senator Conrad’s letter to Secretary Vilsack notes that since the economic downtown millions more people are turning to emergency food banks for their basic food needs. Without immediate Federal action to provide additional food through TEFAP, our nation’s food banks will likely fall short in meeting food demands, leaving many more Americans vulnerable in the event of natural disasters.

In addition to his work to support food programs as a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Conrad is a member of the Senate Hunger Caucus.

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