SOURCE: Vermont Foodbank

December 05, 2007 16:49 ET

Northern New England Food Banks Urge Speedy Passage of Bill

BARRE, VT--(Marketwire - December 5, 2007) - The three major food banks of northern New England -- Good Shepherd Food Bank (ME), New Hampshire Food Bank, and the Vermont Foodbank -- are urging their Senators to press for the speedy passage of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) currently stalled in a partisan debate on the Senate floor. "More than 200,000 low-income people in our region will benefit from the additional food benefits once this bill moves to enactment," said Doug O'Brien, CEO of the Vermont Foodbank. The Farm Bill would provide more than $5.3 billion in new spending for Food Stamps and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a program that provides USDA commodities to charities for people in need. In the northern New England states, nearly $5 million in new food assistance spending would be provided next year if the Senate bill is enacted, and more than $30 million in food assistance over next five years.

"We are very concerned with the effects that rising costs of fuel, heating oil, and food have on the people we serve. They already have a difficult time meeting their basic needs. We need the relief that the Farm Bill provides, now," stated Rick Small, Executive Director of the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, Maine.

"It is a very challenging time for us; food banks are struggling more than ever to meet the increased demand for food. I urge the Senate to pass the Farm Bill in a timely manner so that relief will come quickly to the North East," said Melanie Gosselin, Executive Director, New Hampshire Food Bank.

The Senate returned from their two week Thanksgiving recess on December 3rd to an impending Farm Bill debate as food banks around the country are suffering from a more than 70 percent decline in support from a federal food aid program in recent years. In Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, USDA commodity donations fell to a five year low, and at the same time requests for food assistance are on the rise in all three states.

The House of Representatives passed its version of a Farm Bill in July. The House bill would provide more than $4 billion in new investment in federal nutrition programs and boost the currently sparse supply of commodities available through the nation's charitable food distribution system. Specifically, it would raise current levels of mandatory support for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to $250 million annually and index the amount for inflation.

Currently, debate on the Farm Bill is stalled in the Senate over amendments. And this comes at a time when northern New Englanders are suffering the effects of winter storms and increased fuel and utility costs, rising food prices, and anxiety about wages, jobs and homeownership.

And while Members of Congress struggle to make tough decisions that are necessary to pass the Farm Bill, more than 200,000 northern New Englanders are forced to make tough choices about accessing the charitable food system to provide adequate nutrition for their families.

"We are calling on the leadership from both sides of the aisle to work together to pass a Farm Bill," said Doug O'Brien, Vermont Foodbank CEO. "Food banks in the region are struggling with perilously depleted inventories and without a Farm Bill, with a strong nutrition title, more than 200,000 northern New Englanders are at greater risk of hunger."

Good Shepherd Food Bank

Good Shepherd Food Bank is Maine's largest hunger relief organization, providing food to a network of more than 600 agencies statewide. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless and abuse shelters, group and foster homes, special programs for children and services to the elderly and shut-ins. Each month, more than 1.5 million meals are served in a collaborative effort to Feed Maine's Hungry. For more information about Good Shepherd's services, please visit

New Hampshire Food Bank

A program of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, the New Hampshire Food Bank serves as the only food bank in the state. Our current approach to ending hunger includes developing programs to help educate our member agencies, rolling out a Mobile Food Pantry, and expanding our Operation Frontline program. This year the Food Bank will distribute nearly 4.5 million pounds of donated, surplus food to over 350 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, day care centers, senior citizen homes and substance abuse treatment centers. These member agencies in turn provide the food to the nearly 95,000 hungry men, women and children throughout New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Food Bank is a member of America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network.

Vermont Foodbank, Inc.

The Vermont Foodbank, a statewide organization, is the largest hunger relief charity in Vermont, providing more than 6 million pounds of food to 270 local partner agencies in all 14 counties last year. The Vermont Foodbank and its partners served more than 66,000 needy Vermonters with more than 5 million meals in 2006. The Vermont Foodbank is a member of America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network. For facts and figures on hunger and poverty, to sign-up to receive our newsletter, to find a food shelf in your community, and to learn about the Federal Nutrition Programs, visit us on the web at

Contact Information

  • Contact
    Judy Stermer
    Vermont Foodbank
    w. 802-477-4108
    c. 734-604-0096