WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture, joined Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable hunger relief organization, in releasing the report, "Hunger 1997: The Faces & Facts," at a news conference today on Capitol Hill
Congressman Bob Goodlatte's Second Harvest Press Conference Statement
"Welcome everyone. I am Bob Goodlatte, a Congressman from Virginia and the Chairman of the Department Operations, Nutrition and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. Sister Christine Vladimiroff, OSB, President and CEO of Second Harvest and I invited everyone to this morning's conference to announce the release of the Second Harvest's report entitled "Hunger 1997: The Faces and Facts." This report identifies the beneficiaries of Second Harvest's nationwide anti-hunger activities and gives us a demo and biographic snapshot of the needy in our communities.
The tireless efforts of Sister Christine and more than 666,500 Second Harvest volunteers have prevented almost 26 million people from suffering from chronic hunger. Their solicitation and judicious distribution of more than one billion pounds of food and grocery products through a nationwide network of food banks demands our appreciation and respect. Second Harvest is remarkably efficient. More than 99% of all donations made to Second Harvest go directly to programs helping needy Americans. On behalf of the needy in our community and the Members of my Subcommittee who are committed to efficient delivery of social assistance, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
It is unfortunate, however, that there is a need for food banks at all. Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world, but the need for food banks continues. Food banks meet the needs of their communities by managing donations from the government and the private sector. Most government donations are the product of the TEFAP program, an acronym for the Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP is a unique program which supplies nutritious domestic agriculture products to needy Americans while providing support to the agriculture community. The historic welfare reform law of 1996 changed TEFAP to a $100 million per year mandatory program through the year 2002. Congress made TEFAP commodity purchases mandatory because of the integral role this program has in the provision of food assistance to needy families.
I am a strong supporter of TEFAP because it serves to support the families and individuals in our communities long enough to get them back on their feet. It doesn't entrap them in a cycle of dependency for which other social welfare programs are infamous. As this report notes, nearly two-thirds of the Second Harvest food bank clients don't receive food stamps, are unemployed and looking for work. Over 67% receive food from a Second Harvest agency for less than one year.
TEFAP only accounts for 25% of the food that food banks dispense to the needy. By and large, the private sector quietly makes up the difference. In this town, the phrase "public-private partnership" is popular. Many legislators and administrators use the phrase but usually stop short of explaining what the phrase means or how they intend to create a public-private partnership. This report demonstrates how effective public-private partnership that Second Harvest has created between the government and food producers and processors has become. It also shows how far we have to go.
Before we can find a solution we need to identify the cause of the problem. This report notes that there are just as many food programs serving rural areas as there are serving urban areas (27.2% vs. 26.1%). The report also suggests that the need is color blind, 47% of Second Harvest clients are white, 32% African-American and almost 15% Hispanic. Interestingly, that women are served by Second Harvest food banks much more frequently then men (62.4% vs. 37.6%). The most telling of all statistics, I believe, is the education level of their food bank clients. Over 76% have a high school diploma or less to show for their time in school. Only 5% have at least a college degree. Education, therefore, is the key to being a self-sufficient and productive member of society.
Ladies and gentleman, I invite you to read the Second Harvest report. It helps us to identify who to fight for in the fight against hunger. There has never been greater pressure to balance the budget and in these times when we are asking all on the federal payroll to tighten their belts reports, like this are invaluable for priority budgeting. I want to offer another thank you to Sister Christine, her staff -- especially Doug O'Brien and all of the volunteers of Second Harvest for publishing this report."
Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley.