“Farm Bill” was originally published on Feeding America Action as one of two pieces of legislation that are up for a vote in Congress this year and are of critical importance to the future of food banks and the people they serve.
The farm bill is the centerpiece federal legislation for food and farming. It impacts access to nutritious food for the millions of people in the United States facing hunger.
What’s at Stake?
When people have access to the food and resources they need to thrive, they are able to contribute to the prosperity of their communities and our country as a whole. Unfortunately, hunger exists in every county, parish and borough in the United States.
Through the next farm bill, our nation has a viable pathway to help the nearly 34 million people facing hunger in the U.S. put food on the table.
The farm bill is an expansive piece of legislation that governs many nutrition and agriculture programs. The farm bill reauthorization process, which typically occurs every five years, provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) and more. These nutrition programs work in tandem with food banks across the country to assist families and individuals facing hunger.
As grocery prices rise and supply chain disruptions continue, lawmakers must come together to pass a bipartisan farm bill that supports food banks and the people they serve.
What’s Feeding America Doing?
Feeding America is urging Congress to double down on our nation’s commitment to ending hunger by strengthening critical nutrition programs in the next farm bill that help seniors, families, children, active military members and others. This should include building on program innovations implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also important that Congress centers the voices of people facing hunger.
The federal nutrition programs are proven and essential ways to help ensure everyone in the U.S., regardless of race, background or ZIP code, can access the food and resources they say they need to thrive.
In the next farm bill, Feeding America calls on lawmakers to:
Increase TEFAP funding to help people facing hunger and support the U.S. agricultural economy.
Bolster the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank Program.
Protect SNAP’s purchasing power.
Streamline SNAP eligibility and enrollment processes.
Provide better support for individuals seeking employment.
Reauthorize and streamline CSFP.
Ensure sovereignty for Native communities.
Ensure parity in food assistance for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.
Ensure the inclusion of cultural foods in hunger-relief programs.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
TEFAP moves food from farms to food banks to individuals and families facing hunger.
- Between July 2021 and June 2022, the Feeding America food bank network received 1.24 billion pounds of food from TEFAP, providing over 1 billion meals to people facing hunger. This included food provided through TEFAP entitlement food purchases, USDA bonus commodity food purchases made to support U.S. commodity producers and distributed through TEFAP, and short-term COVID recovery funding for additional TEFAP food purchases.
- The amount of food the Feeding America network received from TEFAP decreased by more than half between Feeding America fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022, straining food bank supplies during a period of elevated demand.
- In 2020, Feeding America network food banks distributed TEFAP foods in 96% of rural counties, providing over 465 million pounds of food to neighbors facing hunger in rural communities.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP is the cornerstone of the nation’s federal nutrition programs, providing approximately 40 million people in the U.S. with monthly food benefits via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.iii
- In federal fiscal year 2019:
- 43% of SNAP participants were children;
- 32% were non-disabled adults under 60;
- 16% were 60 or older; and
- 10% were adults with disabilities under 60.iv
- Most people receiving SNAP benefits who can work, do work. In federal fiscal year 2019:
- Nearly one-third (29%) of households receiving SNAP benefits had income from earnings.
- More than half (53%) of households with children had earned income.
- 6% of households that included adults over 60 had earned income.
- 29% of childless households with adults ages 18-49 without disabilities had earned income.v
- Every dollar of SNAP benefits spent helps generate $1.50 in economic activity during periods of economic decline.vi
- As the percentage of U.S. households with adults over 60 has increased, so has the number of households that receive benefits from Social Security.vii Many older adults turn to SNAP to help ensure they can afford food and other necessities while living on fixed Social Security budgets. In federal fiscal year 2019, 31% of households receiving SNAP benefits also received income from Social Security.viii
Additional Programs and Initiatives
- Around 661,000 people ages 60 and older with low incomes received nutritious food boxes through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in 2021.ix CSFP helps address diet-related health conditions often experienced by older adults who are facing food insecurity and who are at risk of hunger.
- In 2019, an estimated 35% of all food in the U.S.—80 million tons—went unsold or uneaten.x Feeding America network food banks partner with growers, producers, food companies, retailers and restaurants to ensure this nutritious food is connected to people facing hunger, and programs authorized in the farm bill help make this happen.
i. Under Feeding America’s proposal, this would be around $920 million per year for TEFAP food purchases at current inflation levels. Feeding America’s proposal would double the base amount for mandatory TEFAP food purchases from $250 million to $500 million per year, adjusted annually for inflation. (Under current law, food purchases are authorized at $250 million per year, which has been adjusted annually for inflation since 2008. For fiscal year 2023, that inflation-adjusted funding amount was $445 million.)
ii. Congress provided $92 million in discretionary funding for TEFAP storage and distribution for fiscal year 2023.
iii. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “National and/or State Level Monthly and/or Annual Data.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, updated September 9, 2022. https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.
iv. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Table 3.5. SNAP benefits of participants by selected demographic characteristics.” Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2019, March 2021. https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/characteristics-snap-households-fy-2019.
v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Table A.6. Distribution of participating households with children, elderly individuals, and non-elderly individuals with disabilities by type of countable income.” Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2019, March 2021. https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/characteristics-snap-households-fy-2019.
vi. Canning, Patrick, and Brian Stacy. “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Economy: New Estimates of the SNAP Multiplier.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. July 2019. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/93529/err-265.pdf?v=5089.1.
vii. Administration for Community Living. 2020 Profile of Older Americans, May 2021. https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/aging%20and%20Disability%20In%20America/
2020Profileolderamericans.final_.pdf. ; King, Michael D. “New Interactive Data Tool Shows Characteristics of Those Who Receive Assistance from Government Programs.” Census.gov. United States Census Bureau, August 30, 2022. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/05/who-is-receiving-social-safety-net-benefits.html.
viii. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Table B.6. Distribution of participating households by selected countable income sources and by State.” Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2019, March 2021. https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/characteristics-snap-households-fy-2019.
ix. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “CSFP Participation.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, updated September 9, 2022. https://covid19.census.gov/documents/