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Chair Jahana Hayes Opening Statement at Hearing on Review of USDA Nutrition Distribution Programs

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Chair Jahana Hayes delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled "Review of USDA Nutrition Distribution Programs"

[As prepared for delivery]

Thank you to each of our witnesses for joining us today. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedules to provide us with your expertise. I look forward to your testimony and to a productive conversation about USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s nutrition distribution programs: The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

I would also like to offer a warm welcome to our newest Agriculture Committee member, Representative Shontel Brown from Ohio’s 11th District! We are so excited to have you join us, and I am overjoyed to be able to host you for your first Agriculture Committee activity.

Today we will explore the implementation of these important programs, the adjustments made during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-term needs of these programs and the organizations that operate them.

TEFAP, CSFP, and FDPIR support millions of Americans in need each year. These programs purchase American-grown commodities for distribution to food banks, Tribal organizations, and other eligible community-based organizations supporting individuals experiencing food insecurity, serving both to combat hunger and support America’s farmers.

Throughout the pandemic, as many of us saw first-hand in our communities, these programs have shown great resiliency.  They have responded to unprecedented challenges and adjusted quickly to continue delivering food safely to those in need.

USDA’s Economic Research Service found that, in 2020, 6.7 percent of U.S. households reported using a food pantry, an increase from 4.4 percent in 2019. Further, TEFAP supplied 2.2 billion pounds of USDA Foods to emergency food providers, many of which are faith-based organizations, up from the 1.7 billion pounds that were supplied in fiscal year 2019.

In October 2020, the Connecticut Food Bank reported seeing a 44 percent increase in demand for food and services while, at the same time, facing complications from national supply chain issues and a reduction of corporate food donations by more than half. Despite the incredible challenges, in Fiscal Year 2020, they were able to distribute 47 million meals and serve 147,000 people each month.

It is clear that, while the pandemic has created continuous challenges for our food banks and emergency feeding organizations, such as supply chain struggles and soaring demand, they have overcome these obstacles and shown great resiliency in the face of crisis.

Similarly, CSFP, FDPIR, and the organizations that operate them transitioned quickly to continue serving seniors and families living on reservations during the pandemic. Respectively, they served more than 690 thousand and 75 thousand Americans on average each month in Fiscal Year 2020.

From home delivery to mobile pantries, to drive-through service, feeding organizations have made critical adjustments to protect the safety of their volunteers, employees, and those they serve, while still fulfilling their commitment to provide food to those in need during challenging times.

Especially during the holiday season, when so many are relying on food distribution programs to feed their families at times of celebration, we thank each of you for your incredible service to your communities. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences over the past couple years and your recommendations for our Committee moving forward.

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