Theresa Mangapora, Executive Director of the Brazos Valley Food Bank, visits with WTAW’s Scott DeLucia about KBTX’s Summer Hunger Campaign, the increase of people in need, types of food needed, and more during her appearance on The Infomaniacs on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.
News release from Brazos Valley Food Bank:
In late March, the Board of Directors of the Brazos Valley Food Bank (BVFB) authorized the use of almost $790,000 in funds to purchase needed food for its Agency Partners, who will distribute food for free to Brazos Valley families facing hunger. Over the past few years, and despite the recent COVID-related struggles, the Board and management of BVFB have been diligent in its strategic goals of planning for the future, allowing for a significant bulk food purchase for its Agency Partners. Never has BVFB seen a greater need than now to take this pro-active measure to reduce the impact of declining government and public donations, reductions in fresh produce donations and increasing inflation. In normal years, BVFB can meet the needs of its Agency Partners with food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), donations from the public, grocers, and other businesses, as well as fresh produce donations from the Collaborative for Fresh Produce (CFP) and the Houston Food Bank; supplementing with small periodic purchases as needed. Most of the annual food purchases by BVFB are for its Special Programs, like the Senior Bag program or the children’s BackPack Program and is not distributed to the six-county area Agency Partners. With food levels so low and demand for food assistance so high, knowing approximately 70% of the food BVFB’s distributes is through Agency Partners, the decision to use the strategic funds for targeted food purchases for those Agency Partners was clear.
Supply chain and labor issues are still impacting food donated to all food banks. The largest lag has been through reduced TEFAP governmental commodities, with other donation sources behind as well. This record purchase is not just about fewer food donations, however. It is also about increased need, happening at the same time. The number of people served by BVFB’s Agency Partners and Special Programs collectively has steadily risen month to month since this time last year, when inflation really started to impact households. Since October, the number of people requesting food has really skyrocketed due to the “SNAP cliff.” Specifically, during the COVID pandemic, emergency allotments were made through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), increasing benefits both making food easier to access and increasing the number of eligible families. With the expiration of these emergency allotments, more individuals and families are turning to local food pantries to offset higher food costs.
To date, BVFB has spent close to $295,000 of the $790,000 approved by BVFB’s Board of Directors, to secure over 230,000 pounds of desperately needed food for its network of 36 Agency Partners, including food pantries. According to Theresa Mangapora, Executive Director of BVFB, “This substantial allocation of non-governmental contract dollars to purchase food for Agency Partners is unprecedented for BVFB. I applaud operations staff and the Board of Director for prioritizing this emergency use of funds. While ongoing food purchases at this level are not sustainable, the bulk purchase is helping right here, right now, as our Agency Partners and supporters expect of us.”
With food supply and need so in flux, Mangapora says donations and advocacy are needed. When it comes to advocacy, on the Federal level, a strong Farm Bill must be passed that 1) improves the adequacy and use of SNAP benefits; 2) removes barriers to financial security among SNAP participants and 3) bolsters the charitable food response. Additionally, on the state level, the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant which allows Texas Food Banks use to source unsellable fresh produce due to imperfections or market conditions, needs to be increased from $10 Million to $20 Million for the biennium. This increase will not only provide fresh produce that may otherwise be disposed of but will also aid in the safe and abundant food supply with 100% of program funds going to farmers and transportation providers. Without these increases, Texas Food Banks, and food banks across the nation, like BVFB, will face continued food shortages.
When it comes to donations, KBTX-TV will run its Summer Hunger Campaign, benefiting the Brazos Valley Food Bank, throughout the entire month of June, focusing on monetary and food donation collections at 5 main locations – Aggieland Outfitters, Brookshire Brothers, Producers Cooperative Association, Douglas Automotive Group, and the Brazos Valley Food Bank. KBTX-TV will broadcasts live at each of these locations one Wednesday of the month from 4:00-6:30 pm. Monetary donations will be accepted online all month long. For more information, please visit KBTX-TV’s Summer Hunger 2023 | Brazos Valley Food Bank (bvfb.org).