Schrier says his new bill will put small and medium sized farms on a better path of prosperity; will boost food bank inventory | Columbia Basin

Late last month, Chelan and Kittitas counties’ Democratic congressional representative, Kim Schrier, proposed a new bill that aims to support small-to-medium-sized farms by making fresh, healthy, locally frowned food more available to families in need. The bill allows states to use federal funds to buy nutritious food from local farmers for distribution at nearby emergency feeding organizations.

“Farmers in my district are facing high costs and difficulty getting goods to market at the same time as families right down the road are struggling to put food on the table. This just doesn’t make sense. We all want farmers to thrive and get their high-quality products for more families but participating in big government programs can be overwhelming and difficult,” Rep. Schrier said. “When the demand for food banks skyrocketed during the pandemic, we found new and innovative ways to provide those in need with hearty and healthy foods while making it easier for local farmers to participate. By taking what we learned and updating our food assistance programs, this bill will help families while supporting the farmers of the 8th who make it possible.”

The Farmers Feeding Families Act of 2022 will improve The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) by providing food banks with better access to fresh, healthy food. Specifically, the bill will:

= Allow federal funding to be used by states for the purchase of locally grown food from small, new, or underserved agricultural producers or entities for distribution to emergency feeding organizations under TEFAP’s Farm to Food Bank Project Grants

= Establish a minimum income threshold (250% of the Federal Poverty Line) for all TEFAP state plans to ensure everyone in need can receive food assistance

– Create a USDA working group to review and reconsider how all USDA procurement can be directed to support a wider range of farmers, ranchers, and food distributors

“The Farmers Feeding Families Act will bring some long-needed improvements to TEFAP so that we can better meet the nutritional needs of struggling families and our struggling family farms. States will have flexibility to buy food directly from smaller and historically marginalized farms and businesses, which will strengthen local food economies and be a sustainable source of food for food banks that will be safe from national food supply chain disruptions. As Washington’s statewide food justice organization that builds collective action to end hunger, we thank Rep. Schrier for introducing this bill that was designed in partnership with food banks and small farms and food hubs to respond to modernize this hunger relief program and increase its ability to respond to community-identified needs,” said Christina Wong, NW Harvest, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy.

“We are extremely excited to see legislation such as the Farmers Feeding Families Act being introduced by Representative Kim Schrier. At Upper Valley MEND, and throughout Central Washington in general, one of the most impactful ways we’ve been able to address food insecurity while simultaneously supporting our local farm economy has been through programs that transfer fresh, healthy, locally grown produce directly to us food pantries, such as Farm to Food Pantry and Farm to Food Bank. We fully support the Farmers Feeding Families Act and appreciate Representative Kim Schrier for introducing this important piece of legislation,” Bob Mark, Upper Valley MEND, Human Services Director.

“Feeding America supports the Farmers Feeding Families Act of 2022, and applauds Rep. Schrier for her leadership in working with food banks and farmers locally and nationally to draft the legislation. This legislation provides additional funding and flexibility for the TEFAP Farm to Food Bank program, giving states and food banks the resources and ability to purchase local food through TEFAP. We look forward to working with the Congresswoman and others in Congress to build support for this legislation,” said Vince Hall, Feeding America, Chief Government Relations Officer.

The bill is endorsed by local organizations such as the Chelan Douglas Community Action Council in Wenatchee and Upper Valley MEND in Leavenworth.