Sometimes one action can have a ripple effect—an impact that spreads outward, touching much more than just the immediate surroundings. We see it all the time in the process of agriculture. Weather changes crop yields, then ripples through the supply chain, impacting everything from the local economy to the national average of transportation costs. Sometimes the ripple effect is set off by something as simple as buying apples.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), buys food for nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food assistance programs like food banks. The obvious impacts, or ripple effects, of these purchases are benefits to our nation’s children and putting food on the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet. But the ripple effect of these purchases doesn’t stop there.
Apple farmers in Michigan currently have an abundance of apples. With a large amount of processing apples currently in storage and a need for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), our agency is able to help multiple communities—farmers, children and hungry Americans—with just one purchase.
Through these connections, the surrounding rural communities benefit because the farms remain profitable, providing jobs and income. And those being fed by the purchase—like the people I recently met at Bread for the City—see health benefits, are better able to work and help their children focus on school instead of their empty stomachs.
Recently, I announced that our commodity procurement staff will purchase an additional $126 million of quality, domestically-produced fruits and vegetables for TEFAP. These items will be distributed to food banks and support rural communities across the nation. In 2012, we fed the hungry by purchasing $170 million worth of meats and protein, while also helping American farmers and ranchers who were dealing with one of the worst droughts in history.
At our Commodity Procurement Annual Industry meeting last week, we discussed our goals with stakeholders, reviewing new products, our purchase schedule and the need to award more contract dollars to women-owned small businesses and other minority-owned farms and businesses.
USDA is committed to both sides of this ripple effect—those it feeds and those who see financial benefit from selling their foods. And as steward of the money provided for food program purchases, AMS takes its role very seriously. We strive to make every purchase count—for rural Americans and hungry Americans.