Emergency Food Programs Cut: SNAP & TEFAP
Many organizations that distribute food to the poor are troubled by recent federal budget cuts affecting “The Emergency Food Assistance Program” (TEFAP), which is operated by the USDA and linked to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). TEFAP is the program that, among other things, distributes commodity foods to tribes across the U.S., as part of the government’s treaty obligations. The amount of TEFAP funding is part of the Farm Bill and tied to the 2009 indexes for SNAP. One can only hope that adjustments were made to allow for the increasing need of families in our tough economy.
After subtracting the cost of transporting the food, a program fee, and food dollars convertible to administrative use, the 2011 TEFAP budget spendable for emergency food was $219.4 million. Comparatively, the 2012 TEFAP budget spendable for emergency food is $230.7 million. So where is the cut? While the overall TEFAP budget increased, emergency funding was cut for some very high-need states.
Prompted by confusion, concern, a story from Feeding South Dakota (one of our food pantry partners), and the fact that South Dakota and North Dakota are home to five of the poorest counties in America and 15 American Indian tribes, I looked up the TEFAP allocations for SD, ND, and several other states we serve.
This research clarified that the TEFAP cuts occurred in the operational funding allowed to administer TEFAP programs. Already stressed by the increasing need of families in the past two years, it is clear why food banks and humanitarian organizations in SD, as well as NE, MT, WY, and AZ, would be concerned. This is especially true for organizations providing food for families on the reservations. These locations are often known to be food deserts (meaning low income areas where the nearest grocer is over a mile away), and 1 in 4 American Indians already suffer from food insecurity (meaning resource constraints that limit the ability to buy food, concerns about running out of food, not eating so the children can eat, or experiencing persistent hunger). Anything that could jeopardize or limit the provision of food to these families is a cause for concern.