USDA on Monday announced the intent to purchase up to $126.4 million worth of fruit and vegetable products – approximately 155 million pounds – for distribution to needy families under The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
Foods to be purchased include tart cherries, processed apples, cranberries, fresh tomatoes, wild blueberries, and raisins.
Foods distributed through TEFAP are either purchased with funds appropriated specifically for TEFAP, or are procured through USDA's market support programs. The foods are provided to states for distribution to local agencies, such as food banks.
The purchase announced Monday is part of the surplus removal program, which allows USDA to purchase foods to stabilize prices in agricultural commodity markets.
USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon made the assistance announcement with participation from George Jones, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based food pantry and resource center Bread for the City and Anne Alonzo, Agricultural Marketing Service administrator.
"For tens of millions of Americans, they are struggling in this economy," Concannon explained, noting that the U.S. has the highest rate of long-term unemployed in the U.S. since World War II, creating a glut of persons in need of assistance.
Concannon said the amount of unemployed and food insecure Americans underscores the role of the farm bill in supporting food stamp programs and TEFAP.
TEFAP benefits are provided to states according to the number of unemployed persons and people living below the poverty level. States can set and adjust the income standards for the program.
Last fiscal year, USDA reported that Congress appropriated $311.34 million for TEFAP – $265.75 million for food and $45.59 million for administrative support for States and local agencies. This does not include the value of foods purchased by the AMS.
In FY 2013, 270.8 million pounds of food was purchased through AMS surplus removal efforts. Surplus food purchases for TEFAP in FY 2013 totaled $228.51 million.