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Weathering the “Perfect Storm”

March 24, 2008

The current emergency food crisis has resulted from what America’s Second Harvest President Vicki Escarra calls “a perfect storm of hardship.” A rapidly declining economy coupled with drastic cuts in federal commodities since the passage of the 2002 Farm Bill has bred a sharp increase in the price of food. The inflation of food costs has made it harder for emergency food programs to obtain the food they need, while simultaneously increasing the demand on kitchens and pantries from individuals and families who have also been hit hard by the current economic downturn. With the price of staples like milk and eggs rising as much as 25% in the last year, many middle-class consumers are having to choose between groceries and mortgages; fuel or food. Farm bill provisions for food stamps should serve as a primary defense against growing hunger rates, but the farm bill, which also promised emergency food providers a possible financial port in the storm, has been stalled again as President Bush has promised to veto any bill that would rely on an increase in taxes. Current farm bill provisions have been extended to April 18th, and Bush has called on Congress to extend the old farm bill for one year if a new bill has not been agreed upon by that date. Said Escarra, “A one year extension to the Farm Bill would be catastrophic for food banks and those they serve. The charitable sector does not have the capacity to meet dramatically increasing requests for food assistance. It is critical for Congress to show leadership by passing a Farm Bill, and for the President to show compassion by signing it.” The latest version of the farm bill allocates $250 million a year for state emergency food assistance, an increase from $140 million in the 2002 bill.

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