A lack of funding last fiscal year at the federal level has led to a shortage of USDA commodity foods in northeast Georgia.
According to Northeast Georgia Food Bank President and CEO John Becker, the government did not provide enough funding to supply enough commodities to last for the entire federal fiscal year, which runs from October 1 through September 30.
“The commodities are funded at the start of the fiscal year, which is October 1,” said Becker. “Last year, they had laid aside an amount of funding that was insufficient to keep commodities flowing all year round. Therefore, the money had been spent up by around May or June of 2012, so we have not had shipments of commodities coming in. We have distributed basically all of the commodities that we have.”
USDA commodity foods include things like canned goods, rice, and pasta products.
With less commodities coming in, Becker said that the Food Bank has had less to distribute out to its partners throughout its 14-county service area.
He said that the issue should start to resolve itself now that the new fiscal year has started at the federal level.
“We should get a couple of shipments here in October, but we are not going to see the level of commodities we need within the community until probably November or December,” Becker said.
However, until that time comes, Becker said that the Food Bank will have to deal with some commodity shortages.
He said that the Food Bank has worked to distribute more fresh foods.
He said that while that can be a good thing, it can pose challenges.
“There is less variety and it has to be used very rapidly,” said Becker. “It is fresh, which is good. They are healthy, wholesome, nutritious things we are shipping. However, they (fresh goods) do not give the flexibility to the family. So if there is a distribution once a month, they will be taken care of with some pretty good food for several days, but the rest of the month they are going to have to be looking around.”
Becker went on to say that the Food Bank is always accepting donations.
“We do have Thanksgiving taken care of, but things like canned goods are a challenge and are needed,” said Becker.
For more information, contact the Northeast Georgia Food Bank at 706-354-8191 in Athens or 706-782-0780 at its Rabun County facility.
More information can be found online at www.foodbanknega.org.