Column: Nonprofit leaders plead for support to alleviate hunger

(Editor’s note: The following is a joint letter to leaders and community members from Amy Breitmann, President and CEO of Golden Harvest Food Bank, and Brittany Burnett, President and CEO of United Way of the CSRA. Any opinion contained in this column is that of its authors)

As we walked together through the warehouse at Golden Harvest Food Bank’s Augusta
distribution center, we paused to look at the long line of shelves before us.

Where there were once rows full of palletized foods ready to be distributed to our partner
agencies, now stood empty spaces between partially full shelves: a clear indication of the
decrease in food donations and government food commodities available to provide food to our
hungry neighbors.

Both Golden Harvest and United Way have experienced pandemic-level requests for assistance
in the last few months. The number of neighbors needing help is on the rise. Yet, government
assistance has either lessened since the COVID-19 pandemic or been taken away completely —
and the situation is only worsening.

At United Way of the CSRA, we serve the community by supporting dozens of programs at non-
profits in our 12-county footprint, and these organizations serve as frontline resources to
struggling neighbors who see the faces of these needs each day. Over the last few months,
we’ve seen more calls and web inquiries from residents who need assistance with food,
clothing, shelter, and other essential resources in our community.

During the first six months of this year, we’ve already received over 1,100 calls and website
inquiries for food assistance to our 2-1-1 contact center, a critical community resource for
residents in need. This is a 101% increase in inquiries we received over 2022, and there’s no
sign of this trend declining.

When basic needs like food are met, our neighbors can concentrate on other critical
components of a healthy life, including education, employment, housing, and healthcare. All of
these are pieces needed to live a healthy life, but without satisfying food needs, the other areas
of need take a backseat. And that’s not ok.

As we face a perfect storm of stubbornly high grocery prices, the end of emergency food
benefits, and severely strained life-sustaining resources, we realize we cannot combat food
insecurity in our communities alone.

We call on our elected officials to help pass strong legislation to alleviate the food resource
shortages we’re seeing and to ensure food assistance continues to reach our neighbors facing

The good news is that Congress reauthorizes the farm bill every five years, the centerpiece of
federal legislation governing many critical food and farming programs. This legislation provides
healthy, nutritious food for our neighbors facing incredibly challenging circumstances and helps
families bridge the gap between income and expenses with programs such as SNAP
(Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance

SNAP provides monthly grocery benefits to households with meager incomes, which results in
dollars being put back into our community. Last year, SNAP generated an estimated $833,278
in local economic impact. It also helped provide more than 169,000 meals to local seniors,
people with disabilities and children, and everyday adults working hard to make ends meet.
SNAP relieves our neighbors from making impossible decisions, such as whether they should
pay their rent or feed their children.

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Twenty-three of the 25 counties Golden Harvest serves are rural, and TEFAP is a hunger lifeline for rural
communities. In 2021, when government assistance peaked due to the pandemic, TEFAP
provided our service area with almost 10 million pounds of healthy food – much-needed relief
for countless families.

In 2022, TEFAP provided 6 million pounds of food. The harsh reality is that despite the increased
need, in 2023, we are on track to receive about half of what we received just two short years

We do not take these food programs for granted, and we stand together today to ask you to
lend your voice to the conversation. We will continue to do the vital work of helping provide
meals to our communities. Still, we need our members of Congress to join us by passing a
strong farm bill that invests in these programs with a proven record of effectiveness and

Although food costs in the U.S. have greatly increased, benefits to our neighbors have not.
The amount of SNAP benefits received depends on the number of individuals in the household.
Imagine a single mother of three. She meets the work and income requirements; however, she
receives $470 and must make that last for 30 days. $15.67 a day divided by four people is $3.92.
This dollar amount is not enough to help this family purchase food items they need to maintain
a healthy lifestyle.

By not increasing benefits, we are limiting our neighbors further as they cannot afford to bridge
budgets when the cost of living has increased so harshly over the past few years.
Our neighbors’ crisis is urgent, and we need your help.

Food resources must be a priority. We bring our voices together to ask you, our community, to
reach out to our members of Congress and ask for full support of a farm bill that increases SNAP and TEFAP resources. With inflation skyrocketing, the benefits have not kept up. And food bank
shelves are emptying with the significant need we are seeing through our more than 350
partner agencies. United Way is fielding more calls from struggling neighbors, and when
resources available to these neighbors are scarce, the calls increase. For those who need
transportation to the grocery store or food pantry, United Way can schedule a free Lyft ride to
assist with transportation barriers. However, that simply isn’t enough when the food benefit is
not as robust as it needs to be.

Now is not the time to cut these nutrition programs. It is time to take a good long look at the
math and into the eyes of our neighbors and realize that it does not add up. Four in five SNAP
recipients live with a child, senior, or someone with a disability. Even when SNAP recipients
meet all the work and income requirements, hourly wages cannot support the ability to provide
healthy and nutritious food. Healthy food is the basis of any individual, family, or senior living a
healthy and productive life. For every one meal Golden Harvest provides, SNAP provides nine,
and we need this help to fill the shelves in our warehouses through federal nutrition programs
to ensure no one goes hungry.

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We have seniors choosing between medication and food, mothers who are going hungry to feed their children, and families balancing paying for housing or making a trip to grocery store.
Our charities cannot solve hunger alone.

We are grateful for the recent announcement of an influx of funding to bolster the emergency food programs. We believe that our voices are being heard and ask that resources for those
facing food insecurity continue to be a priority. With so much discussion regarding the national budget and wide disagreement, we plead Congress to come together and pass a fully funded
farm bill that strengthens SNAP benefits and supports nutrition programs like TEFAP, which are crucial to the Food Bank’s ability to serve neighbors during this financially challenging time.
These increases will not only provide support for our neighbors, but they will also continue to
bolster our agricultural and local economy.

We thank you in advance for your support of your neighbors and for ensuring that no one in the
communities we serve goes hungry. For more information, visit

Amy Breitmann is the President and CEO of Golden Harvest Food Bank. Brittany Burnett is the
President and CEO of United Way of the CSRA.

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