Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act
By Diego Flammini
A U.S. senator has introduced a piece of legislation designed to help food banks purchase food from farmers during the pandemic.
New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled her plan to amend the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004.
She presented the Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act during a video call Tuesday.
The bill would provide US$8 billion in block grants to food banks in the country’s top fruit- and vegetable-producing states.
The states would then distribute that money to food banks so they can purchase food directly from farmers and help pay for distribution, processing or for extra staff.
As producers are challenged with finding buyers and food banks are busy trying to feed hungry Americans, now is the time to provide assistance for both parties, Gillibrand said.
“We can’t stand by while thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables are going to waste on farms in one town, while (there are) thousands of cars or (long) lines for food banks in another,” Sen. Gillibrand said Tuesday. “By connecting farms and food banks we can form new links in the supply chain that realign excess supply with excess demand.”
Food organizations support Gillibrand’s legislation.
From March 16 to April 16, the Food Bank of Central New York distributed 2.2 million pounds of food. That figure represents almost a 60 per cent increase from a normal month.
Finding new avenues to connect hungry Americans with healthy food is imperative, said Marcel Van Ooyen, president and CEO of GrowNYC.
“The value of this grant program right now would be immeasurable, and we are deeply grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her efforts,” he said in a statement on Sen. Gillibrand’s website. “Sourcing from regional farmers to provide fresh, healthy food to some of New York City's most hard-hit communities supports not only vulnerable New Yorkers during the current pandemic, but also a healthy regional food system, the significance of which is demonstrated by recent disruptions in the industrial food supply chain.”