May 6, 2020
Senate bill introduced to provide $8 billion to purchase produce

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced on May 5 legislation to address disruptions in the food supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and directly connect farms to food banks.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York)

According to a news release, as restaurants, hotels, schools, and other food service entities cease operations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, reports have emerged that millions of pounds of produce have been left to rot. Meanwhile, food banks across the country are facing unprecedented demand, as millions of newly unemployed Americans now face food insecurity. The Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would provide needed support to food banks as they continue to serve the surge of jobless Americans, while also supporting struggling farmers who lack buyers for their produce.

Like many Americans dealing with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, farmers in New York and across the country are struggling to make ends meet,” Gillibrand said. “The Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act will not only provide them with a new chain of potential buyers, but it will put money directly in their pockets by cutting out middlemen and will deliver fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to millions of Americans facing food insecurity. This important bill will stimulate the farm economy and strengthen the health of Americans. I’m proud to introduce this legislation and will fight for its inclusion in the next relief package.”

More than 30 million Americans are currently jobless due to the coronavirus pandemic and many are struggling to put food on the table. According to Feeding America, a leading hunger relief organization, demand at food banks has surged by 70%. Today, with food banks facing mile-long lines, the need for resources to feed hungry Americans is greater than ever. The Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would meet this demand by giving food banks the power to purchase excess specialty crops — including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits, which are easily stored and processed by food banks — directly from farmers.

Gillibrand’s proposed Food Bank Access to Farm Fresh Produce Act would provide $8 billion in block grants to food banks in the top vegetable- and fruit-producing states. Food banks will be able to use the funds to purchase fresh produce directly from farmers in New York, which is the 15th largest vegetable-and fruit-producing state, and other states. They will also be able to use the funding to pay for distribution, processing and additional staff needed to meet increased demand.

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Gillibrand has prioritized support for farmers throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, Senator Gillibrand announced the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act which would provide economic relief for small farmers suffering from massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions. In addition, she has urged the administration to support dairy producers and provide assistance under the CARES Act for local food producers who have experienced losses due to the coronavirus outbreak.


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