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2X Match Deadline Extended

Hunger is on the rise across Colorado.

Now through April 30, your donation will be matched to make 2X the impact for our neighbors.

Help address the emergency level of need in our region while your gift = 2X the impact!

× Child smiling.

Hunger is on the rise across Colorado.

Now through midnight on April 30, your donation will be matched to make 2X the impact for our neighbors.

Help address the emergency level of need in our region while your gift = 2X the impact!

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Why the Farm Bill Matters for Hunger Relief

a farmer working their land

Update: Read Food Bank of the Rockies’ response to the recently proposed farm bill.

While the phrase as written may make you think of soybean commodities and crop insurance, the farm bill is the single most important legislative tool in meeting the rising challenge of hunger and food insecurity in the U.S.

The multi-year omnibus laws referred to as “farm bills” are expansive pieces of legislation that cover a wide gamut of topics relating to nearly every facet of how Americans are fed. They include everything from strictly agricultural concerns like support for crop production and horticultural research, to ecological conservation initiatives and, perhaps most importantly, funding nutrition assistance programs for the roughly 49 million people in the U.S. who utilize them annually.

Historically, farm bills have been renewed every five years; the most recent iteration in this tradition was the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. In 2023, lawmakers opted to extend the 2018 farm bill until the end of the following financial year, with the final date to enact a new bill or create another extension set at September 30, 2024.

This means that the need for sustained, vocal advocacy on behalf of nutrition assistance programs has never been greater. As policymakers debate how much federal funding should be allotted to support critical, successful nutritional initiatives, every bit of advocacy can make a difference in ensuring that all Americans have access to nourishing food, regardless of their economic status.

The historical origins of the farm bill lie in the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, a component of the New Deal legislation enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the effects of the Great Depression on the United States’ agricultural sector. In addition to policies designed to help raise the cratering prices of commodity crops, the AAA also included a nutrition program — overseen by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) — to address widespread hunger across the nation. This national nutrition program was the predecessor to food stamps and, eventually, modern nutritional benefits as we know them.

Nutrition assistance programs were further codified within farm bills passed in the 1970s due to increased need and have grown to encompass the majority of national spending on the farm bill. The two main federal nutrition programs supported by modern farm bills are the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

The Emergency Food Assistance Program bridges the gap between food producers and people facing hunger. The USDA uses TEFAP to purchase nourishing foods such as fruits, vegetables, and other staples from farmers and other food producers in the U.S. Then, food bank networks like Feeding America (of which Food Bank of the Rockies is affiliated) partner with individual states supplied by the USDA and distribute that food to communities that need it.

a child eating an apple

“TEFAP is an important investment for food banks, farmers, and individuals experiencing hunger,” explained Sarah Mason, Government Relations Manager for Feeding Colorado. “Through TEFAP, the USDA purchases food from American producers and distributes that food through the emergency food network in partnership with state agencies.”

Mason outlined how the food sourced by TEFAP plays a crucial role in addressing the challenge of hunger nationwide, and accounts for a significant portion of the supplies relied upon by local food banks.

“TEFAP makes up about 30% of food bank food supply nationwide and provides a vital source of food, especially in rural communities, where access to nutritious foods is limited,” she said.

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)

While food banks and other food distribution centers are an important component of the national effort to address hunger, benefits provided by SNAP have proven to be the most effective and efficient way to feed people in need. SNAP benefits empower people experiencing hunger to purchase groceries at retailers nationwide via electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards which are refilled monthly. In 2022, SNAP benefits helped more than 40 million Americans get the food they needed.

“SNAP is the most effective anti-hunger program our nation has,” Mason said. “For every one meal our network provides, SNAP provides nine.”

Increased demand requires increased funding

Due to a wide array of socioeconomic factors, more Americans than ever are struggling to put food on the table and are turning to food banks for help.

“Currently, our network of food banks and partner agencies in Colorado are experiencing unprecedented increases in the use of services,” Mason shared. “This is attributed to several factors, including increase in inflation, rise of cost of living, and withdrawal of pandemic-era changes to programs like SNAP. We’re seeing more frequent access to our services because wages and allocations from programs like SNAP are simply not enough to provide enough food for families.”

This concerning spike in the need for nutritional assistance in the Rocky Mountain region shows the close link between SNAP and TEFAP and how reductions or stagnation in one form of nutritional assistance can have a cascading effect on other programs.

“If SNAP access is hindered or benefit levels decrease, folks may turn to our network to supplement that difference,” Mason explained. “We’ve seen in the past few years that when TEFAP food availability decreases during a time of increased need, food banks need to purchase more food than ever before to make up the difference and ensure communities are served.”

How you can help

baskets of peaches

We encourage anyone who is concerned about the funding of the nutrition programs that support organizations like Food Bank of the Rockies and our 800+ Hunger Relief Partners to contact their legislators to advocate on behalf of a strong farm bill that will extend and strengthen nutrition assistance programs. You can sign a petition, learn more about the farm bill, and discover other ways to support these efforts at Feeding Colorado’s website and Feeding America’s website.

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