The Westmoreland Food Bank applauds today’s announcement from the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that they will provide nearly $1.5 billion in additional funding for emergency food assistance nationally. This new investment will help Westmoreland County begin alleviating the severe food shortage our food bank has been facing and help ensure people in our community do not need to make the difficult choice between putting food on the table and paying bills.
Food banks, pantries and other charitable food assistance programs have been providing a record response during the COVID-19 pandemic, assisting 60 million individuals in 2020 and 53 million in 2021. Specifically, our food bank served over 6 million pounds last year. This level of aid would not have been possible without USDA food purchases. In 2020, USDA foods made up 38% of all food distributed by the Feeding America network, of which the Westmoreland Food Bank is a member, translating to over 2.4 billion meals for community members in need.
USDA food purchases are a lifeline for rural communities, which often face higher rates of food insecurity than urban communities. In 2020, 96% of rural counties received USDA food items distributed by a food bank within the Feeding America network.
Today, the demand for emergency food assistance remains well above pre-pandemic levels. But in 2022, food banks have struggled with a food supply crisis. Our food bank has been facing an unprecedented combination of supply chain disruptions, decreased donations of food and funds, and rapidly increasing costs for purchased food, transportation, cold storage and other operational needs. This investment from the Biden administration will help close the gap between the amount of food we can provide and the hunger relief Westmoreland County needs.
The Westmoreland Food Bank stands ready to distribute this emergency food aid as soon as possible to individuals and families facing hunger in our community.