Kemp proposes program that would support Georgia farmers as well as food banks

Officials operating food banks in Walton County believe the program would be a benefit

ATLANTA, GA. – Just prior to the end of 2021, Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp, along with Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Human Services, members of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia Food Bank Association, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Agribusiness Council, and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, announced a proposal that, if implemented, would benefit Georgia farmers as well as food banks.

“At a time when demand for Georgia food bank services has increased, we are proposing legislation to support and leverage an underutilized law that combats agricultural waste and addresses fresh produce shortages in regional food banks,” Kemp said in a press release.“Together, we will continue to fight hunger and support our farm families.”

Regional food banks do currently receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) but funds have not been appropriated to a complementary program since its inception in 1998. Kemp said the legislation he is proposing will improve the applicable Georgia code and provide a more clear path for the implementation of this program at the state level. He said he also will include funding in his budget proposal to support this program. This would ultimately allow more farmers to enter the market and be compensated at a level equal to input costs plus half of appreciation for unsold produce instead of wasting 4 – 5 million pounds of surplus produce as has been the case in the past.

This program also would reportedly help food banks by giving them more resources to purchase Georgia Grown fresh produce and would open the market for increased bartering.

Megan Herndon, director of Shepherd’s Staff Ministries which operates a food bank in Loganville has some thoughts about the potential benefits such a program could be for the local community.

”I am for federally/state funded programs for disadvantaged people and communities as long as the resources are temporary, are put into the hands of the people who need it most and can be disseminated quickly,” Herndon said.

Cindy Little, director of Faith in Serving Humanity (F.I.S.H.) said she believes the program would be a blessing for those in the community who are served by F.I.S.H., especially in the current economic climate.

“This will be a win win for farmers and our seniors as well as the working poor who do not receive but a small amount of any of food stamps. People are taking from their food budget to put in the gas tank. Seniors are deciding heat or eat,” Little said. “We are blessed that at FISH we are on top of this growing need so no one has to make those hard choices in Walton County. Our community is incredible in their giving to help others. We are blessed to meet the challenges that would cripple our seniors and working poor families.”

Kemp said by opening this market, food banks can stretch program funding over more purchases and implementation of this program will increase the amount of matching funds Georgia is eligible for under the TEFAP.

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