by Jordan W. Jones, Saied Toossi, and Leslie Hodges
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs that together affect the lives of millions of people and account for roughly two-thirds of USDA’s annual budget. In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USDA launched additional temporary programs and implemented numerous policy changes that expanded the scope and coverage of existing programs. Together, these initiatives contributed to higher spending on food and nutrition assistance programs in fiscal year (FY) 2021 (October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021), which amounted to a historical high of $182.5 billion. This report uses preliminary data from USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to examine program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance programs through FY 2021.
Errata: On July 14, 2022, the report summary title was updated to correct the fiscal year.
Keywords: Food and nutrition assistance programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), Farmers to Families Food Box Program, emergency allotments, food security, Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, economic conditions
HUNGER and nutrition should become non-negotiables under the Marcos administration, according to local economists.
With the majority of Filipinos already not being able to afford healthy diets, the recent spike in inflation caused by more expensive food items would require the national government to introduce interventions.
One intervention, Ateneo Eagle Watch Senior Fellow Leonardo A. Lanzona Jr. told the BusinessMirror, is for the government to provide food subsidies instead of cash subsidies. This will ensure that families do not grow hungry and that the food is also good for them.
“I would like to note that hunger and nutrition are non-negotiables. There seems to be a general trend in this and the previous administration to focus on the economy and basically assume that income will be distributed automatically,” Lanzona said in an e-mail over the weekend.
“It is important to prioritize health, nutrition and education because downgrading their values in this post-pandemic period will make it difficult to return to its previous state,” he added.
Giving food subsidies, Lanzona said, would also spur agriculture production. This can be part of a comprehensive agriculture program where farmers are encouraged to plant nutritious food varieties to increase access to them.
“The idea is that focusing on the economy is really a one-way street. It is more viable to work on human capital now and determine how we bring it to a level that can restore growth,” Lanzona said.
In a separate e-mail, Ateneo de Manila University Associate Professor Geoffrey M. Ducanes told the BusinessMirror that providing food subsidies for poor Filipinos will prevent them from falling deeper into poverty or make them go hungry.
“This is especially important for children of poor households who might become malnourished and whose physical and mental development can be affected,” Ducanes said.
He explained that the spike in inflation and the depreciation of the peso are worrisome when it comes to food prices.
Ducanes said these could increase the price of imported food that Filipinos consume on a daily basis. This includes “imported fruits and vegetables, meat, canned goods, and even sweets.”
The impact of the depreciation of the peso, Ducanes said, would have lingering effects on inflation. This will have a significant impact on the ability of Filipinos to afford commodities, particularly food.
The increase in inflation hurts the poor more, especially if the source of the increase is in food. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said food alone has a weight of 34.8 percent in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all households and as much as 55 percent for the bottom 30 percent.
“The effect of the peso depreciation is of course not limited to inflation, it could also positively affect our exports as they become less expensive in the world market. In assessing the effects of a peso depreciation, this should also be given weight,” Ducanes said.
“Given the further depreciation of the peso in July 2022, we would expect an even higher cost for the same basket this month should the peso depreciation continue to hold,” he also said. In the long term, Ducanes said, the country should strive to increase domestic agricultural productivity. This can be addressed by dealing with the problems in the agricultural sector.
Ducanes cited a need for greater investment in agricultural infrastructure, equipment, and research and development.
He also stressed that the Philippines should keep trade open in order to allow Filipinos to have access to affordable food and non-food items. This allows a steady supply of items that are not supplied domestically and options to source items elsewhere that may be considered cheaper.
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the kickoff of the 13th annual Feds Feed Families program, a voluntary food drive which encourages employees from all federal agencies to give in-kind contributions – food, services, and time – to food banks and pantries of their choice.
USDA is honored to lead the campaign for all federal employees. This year’s theme is Fighting Hunger – Giving Hope.
The launch event for this year was held at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C. With the help of donors, volunteers, and partner organizations, the food bank distributes more than 45 million meals annually. That is an average of 88,000 meals a day.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Peyser was on hand to shepherd in the 2022 campaign which focuses on summer giving from June 27 – September 30, as well as encourages federal employees to give year-round. So far in 2022, more than 1.5 million pounds of food has been donated through the campaign.
Peyser said more than 38 million Americans, including 12 million children, experience food insecurity, thanking federal employees for participating in this important program.
Capital Area Food Bank President and CEO Radha Muthiah shared the impact of COVID-19 on food assistance programs, noting that donations are down. She said during these challenging times Feds Feed Families is more important than ever before to meet the rising demand of food needed to “unlock human potential.”
"One box feeds a family of four for up to three days. On a good day we pack 500 boxes a day. On a great day 2,500 boxes," said food bank volunteer Maureen O'Donnell, stressing the importance of volunteering at food networks, as volunteer numbers are down.
Rebecca Williams, a food bank client whose family fell upon hard times, said "Everyone deserves access to food regardless of economic status, racial background or current situation.”