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Rising costs threaten food banks as Farm Bill legislation hangs in balance

The current Farm Bill package is set to expire on Sept. 30.

ATLANTA — As the expiration date of the current Farm Bill looms on Sept. 30, food banks and food pantries are growing increasingly concerned about their ability to serve the community due to rising costs. The critical funding approved five years ago is set to expire, and the fate of the new Farm Bill remains in the hands of Congress.

The Atlanta Community Food Bank, which currently boasts full shelves, is struggling to maintain this level of support for metro families. CEO Kyle Waide stressed the importance for Congress to pass the much-needed Farm Bill legislation.

"So we're still seeing really robust demand. We're serving more than 200,000 households a month right now across north Georgia. And we expect that this level of demand is going to continue as long as we continue to have these elevated prices in this inflationary environment," Waide emphasized.

The Farm Bill, a collection of legislation passed every five years, plays a pivotal role in providing assistance to farmers and crucial funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program. However, the legislation is currently stalled in Congress, with no signs of progress as the deadline approaches at the end of the month.

Ike Reighard, President of MUST Ministries, highlighted the strain on food pantries and the urgent need for an updated and more robust Farm Bill.

"It just creates more pressure. It creates the uncertainty of when are they going to be able to get around to this," Reighard expressed.

Advocates like Reighard have written letters to Georgia's congressional delegation, urging action and emphasizing the importance of keeping up with the inflation that has driven up costs since the last Farm Bill in 2018.

"We certainly need to be able to keep up with how inflation has made things so much more expensive than what it was five years ago in 2018 when the last farm bill was passed," Reighard stressed.

11Alive reached out to members of the Georgia delegation on the Committee on Agriculture about the Farm Bill. Congressman David Scott released a statement saying that ensuring metro Atlanta families know where their next meal is coming from is one of his top priorities. 

“The farm bill is currently being written by the Agriculture Committee, and I am working with my fellow Democratic members and colleagues across the aisle to negotiate a bill that protects funding for our food banks and reduces hunger across Georgia," Scott said in his statement. "Millions of Americans—children, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, working families—rely on food assistance every month, whether it’s from a food bank or SNAP. When people hit a rough patch in life, they shouldn’t be allowed to fall between the cracks. Neighbors help neighbors, and farmers help feed America. That’s what the farm bill is all about.”

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