The Texas Department of Agriculture slashed food bank funding by 44% today, despite record need related to the COVID-19 health crisis.
The $1.9 million cut is to the Surplus Agricultural Product Grant, which helps food banks procure fresh produce from local growers. The cuts are aimed at satisfying a directive from the Governor to trim agency budgets by five percent.
“It makes no sense,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. “This grant provides direct aid to two groups hit hardest by the pandemic: Texans who lost their jobs, and farmers who saw the majority of their business disappear practically overnight. Why would we slash funding for a program that feeds hungry people and supports struggling farmers at a time like this?”
Since the pandemic hit in March, hunger has doubled in Texas along with demand at food banks across the state. At the same time that more Texans are going hungry, many growers in Texas have had to destroy their crops because there was no place to sell them.
The Surplus Agricultural Product Grant helped food banks procure 33 million pounds of fresh produce for Texans experiencing hunger this year. Increased consumption of fresh produce improves health outcomes and reduces healthcare costs. As a result, the program has enjoyed broad support and was expanded by the state legislature in recent years.
“This program is a win-win for the state, and a cornerstone of our ability to provide healthy food to Texans during their moments of need,” said Cole. “Surely we can find a less harmful way to trim the state budget.”