On March 21, we celebrate National Ag Day. It is a day to thank farmers for fueling our families and producing the safest and highest-quality food in the world. This year’s National Ag Day is also a chance to reflect on the partnership between farmers and food banks that sustained so many families during the pandemic, and discuss how that partnership can be strengthened in the future. During the pandemic, Hoosier farmers, food companies and food retailers came together to connect nutritious food with families in need.
It wasn’t always easy. Not long ago, we saw lines that stretched for miles around area food banks. Providing food to families from across our state, many of whom never imagined they would be visiting area food banks, took creativity and flexibility. Today, the lines at food distributions are still long, as high grocery prices make it harder for working families in our community to put food on the table. Thankfully, in addition to priding themselves on producing some of America’s best commodities and specialty crops, our state’s farmers play a critical role in helping to relieve hunger in our communities. During the pandemic, farmers helped connect crops that otherwise would not have been harvested with food banks. They found innovative ways to get local food directly to local food banks.
The partnership between farmers and food banks can continue to grow. The innovations that were hallmarks of the pandemic must be the foundation for further progress toward addressing food insecurity across our state.
The farm bill, which Congress passes about every five years, is up for reauthorization this year. This is our opportunity to cement the progress we have made. For decades, the farm bill has created pathways for farmers to take the nutritious food they grow and connect it with individuals and families facing hunger. To make sure the 2023 Farm Bill delivers for our state, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry is proud to join with Feeding America, farmers, retailers and food producers from across the country on the Farmers Feed America initiative. Farmers Feed America reaffirms that farmers and food banks stand as one in the effort to end hunger and our desire to apply the lessons of the pandemic going forward.
We will advocate a farm bill that:
- Includes robust funding for both agriculture and nutrition.
- Strengthens The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to help food banks keep up with rising need for food assistance and food costs.
- Maintains federal programs that support U.S. farmers by purchasing food during market disruptions, particularly in our state.
- Includes flexibilities to help ensure the farm-to-food-bank pipeline–guided by the United States Department of Agriculture–keeps flowing during supply chain fluctuations.
While the farm bill is a federal bill, its impact and the priorities for which Farmers Feed America is advocating reach us here in Indiana. For instance, an increase in TEFAP funding would mean more fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, milk, cheese and grain products going to families across our state. As you might expect, more TEFAP purchases mean more purchases from farmers—simultaneously helping our state’s agriculture economy and families facing hunger. This is a win-win for farmers and food banks across Indiana. No farmer wants to see a crop go to waste when there are neighbors in need. No food bank wants to see empty shelves or long lines. We serve our community best when we stand together.
The Farmers Feed America effort is our chance to continue to join forces, pull forward the lessons of the pandemic, and ensure that on National Ag Day–and every day–we are delivering nutritious food from farms to food banks to families.