USDA to Provide More Produce For Hungry New Mexicans

Earlier this month, the USDA announced it will provide additional support to hunger relief organizations by purchasing up to $126.4 million worth of produce to be distributed through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) across the United States. The food is supplied to states for distribution through food banks and their network of partner agencies.

With the expected influx of produce, USDA Regional Administrator William Ludwig felt it was important to visit states experiencing elevated hunger.  Ludwig visited Roadrunner Food Bank on Monday, January 13th. Ludwig oversees 15 federal nutrition assistance programs in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank said, “We are so pleased that Mr. Ludwig was able to spend time with us learning about how we distribute TEFAP foods across the state. Reductions in SNAP (food stamp) benefits and proposed cuts coming from Congress are already impacting hungry families. Our network of charitable hunger relief organizations needs access to as much food as possible to make it available to hungry people. Food lines across the state are already long and growing as people on SNAP turn to us and our network more often. This additional produce coming from the USDA is one way we can increase the amount of food leaving our docks every day for the benefit of hungry people in communities across the state.”

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Bill Ludwig of the USDA pictured with Melody Wattenbarger of the Food Bank

TEFAP is distributed by Roadrunner Food Bank in 16 counties in the state to a network of hundreds of partner agencies including food pantries, soup kitchens, and other charitable hunger programs.  Roadrunner also warehouses TEFAP for four additional regional food banks in the state to serve agencies in the remaining counties. Last year the Food Bank distributed more than 7.3 million pounds of TEFAP food received from the State of New Mexico’s Human Services Department via the USDA.

TEFAP food represents nearly 30% of the food distributed by the Food Bank last fiscal year. The Food Bank also receives donated food as part of its Food Rescue Program from various sources including local retailers, wholesalers, growers, manufacturers, food drives. In addition, the Food Bank also purchases food.

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Bill Ludwig of the USDA talking to media about the produce to arrive this spring.

A recent study shows New Mexico ranks among the top states for childhood hunger.  The arrival of the extra USDA produce will provide vulnerable people an important source of nutritious food giving families the ability to prepare well balanced meals in their own home.

Sonya Warwick is the Communications Officer at Roadrunner Food Bank.

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