While the majority of media attention the last 36 hours on the new federal COVID relief package has been focused on unemployment and stimulus cash for Americans, food relief is getting a huge influx of money. The total price tag of the package is around $900 billion, so only a relatively small percentage is going to food relief. But that small percentage is about $26 billion dollars. It’s a massive amount of money being split between nutrition programs and disaster assistance for farmers and dairy producers. It’s a lot more than simply a lifeline.

Food pantries and food banks nationwide have been stressed to the breaking point the last few months as more and more people turn to them literally to stay alive. Locally, the South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek has seen its own on-site distribution go from helping a few dozen families on distribution days, to nearly one thousand.  The Michigan Farm News reports the new relief package is also increasing benefits for those supported by the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for another six months. Senior food assistance is also seeing a big increase.

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Michigan US Senator Debbie Stabenow is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  She played a key role in the package negotiations. She says the need cannot be underscored enough, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a hunger crisis that has touched every part of our nation. As many as 50 million Americans are not able to feed themselves and their families.”

MFN lists some of the key provisions in the package, including:
- Providing $400 million for food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program with up to 20% for the distribution of commodities

- Providing$175 million for nutrition services for seniors under the Older Americans Act, such as Meals on Wheels

- Supporting dairy product donations by providing $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot milk donation program, to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste

- Supporting farmers’ mental health by including $28 million in state block grants to support farmer and rancher stress management due to COVID-19

What’s troubling for many Americans today is the billions of dollars going to foreign countries through the legislation, while stimulus checks for Americans are set at $600.

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