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WA Food Banks Counting on U.S. Farm Bill Funding

November 6, 2007

Spokane, WA/Washington, DC – Farmers aren't the only ones watching the U.S. Senate debate the next Farm Bill this week. Children's advocates and local food banks are hoping the state will receive more farm commodities to fill food bank shelves. For the past five years, Washington food banks have been allocated less government surplus food, to divide among more families.

The House and Senate versions of the new Farm Bill both include more money for the emergency food program (known as TEFAP) and Food Stamps. The proposed increases are not big, but Linda Stone, Eastern Washington director of The Children’s Alliance, says they're important because benefits have eroded and more people need assistance.

"We are looking at increasing numbers of working, low-income families who are accessing the programs because their wages don't meet their needs."

Stone says more than half of Food Stamp recipients in Washington are children. The bill would raise the minimum Food Stamp benefit, which is now $10 a month, to $18 by the year 2012. Stone adds not only have federal commodity allocations to food banks decreased, food donations from other sources also are down.

"The grocery community simply operates differently now. There's not as much nonperishable food donated, because they basically send it to resellers. So it's a tough time right now for those trying to meet the day-to-day needs of low-income folks."

If the Senate version of the Farm Bill becomes law, nutrition program increases would total $5.3 billion over the next five years. That's less than two percent of the Farm Bill's total price tag of $288 billion.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA