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Sen. Stabenow's legislation will support food banks, protect workers and strengthen food partnerships.

Compiled by staff

May 27, 2020

3 Min Read

Michigan's senior senator has introduced the Food Supply Protection Act to help protect the nation's food supply.

“The COVID-19 crisis has tested the strength of our nation’s food supply chain, creating a ripple effect that’s harming our families, farmers and workers,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “This bill will help strengthen our food supply by redirecting food to families and helping farmers and processors retool their operations.”

The Food Supply Protection Act will:

  • Support food banks and non-profits to help increase their capacity and address growing demand. The bill will provide infrastructure grants that can be used for additional cold storage and refrigeration, transportation, personal protective equipment, rental costs, and additional use of commercial and community infrastructure.

  • Strengthen food partnerships to prevent food waste and feed families. Through grants and reimbursements, the bill will support new partnerships to make purchases of excess food and increase donations to food banks, schools, nonprofits. These partnerships will promote innovative collaborations with chefs and restaurants and focus on the needs and creative solutions in local communities. They will allow for a diverse variety of purchases and include many areas and products left out of the USDA’s current food box program to ensure more people in need and agricultural producers of all sizes and types can access support.

  • Protect workers and retool small and medium-sized food processors. Through grants, loans, and loan guarantees, the bill will support upgrading machinery, temporary cold storage, purchasing personal protective equipment and test kits, and cleaning. This funding will assist farmers and small and medium-sized food processors in protecting their workers and help them cater to new markets so they can continue operations and alleviate bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Related:Meat plant workers returning to work

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Robert Casey, D-Penn., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

What are people saying?

The Food Supply Protection Act is supported by more than 40 food and agricultural organizations, including Feeding America, the James Beard Foundation, Chef José Andrés, National Farmers Union, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, the National Milk Producers Association, United Fresh and United Farm Workers Foundation.

Related:Is it possible to safely run meat plants during pandemic?

“During this unprecedented crisis, we need creative solutions to feed our communities and keep food businesses alive," said Katherine Miller, vice president of impact at the James Beard Foundation. "This bill will help chefs and restaurants do what they do best – feed families and uplift their communities in innovative ways.”

“Every link in the food system, from farm to fork, is experiencing serious disruptions right now," said Rob Larew, National Farmers Union president. "If left unchecked, these disruptions could threaten farmers' livelihoods and undermine national food security. But by both facilitating the acquisition and distribution of surplus food from farmers to food banks as well as helping food and agricultural businesses adapt to new challenges, the Food Supply Protection Act will help ensure that food continues to flow safely and efficiently from farmers' fields to consumers' plates.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created disruptions in the food supply chain and posed a serious threat to the health and safety of workers at food processing plants,” said Brian Ronholm, director of food policy at Consumer Reports. “This bill will help stabilize the food supply chain during a time when many families are struggling financially, and provide important funding to allow food processing facilities to purchase protective equipment, test kits and cleaning supplies to protect frontline workers."

"The COVID-19 crisis has helped educate government officials what many already knew—farm workers are essential workers," said Teresa Romero, United Farm Workers Union president. "Without farm workers, America cannot eat. By rewarding agricultural employers for providing personal protective equipment and taking measures to protect employees from COVID-19, Senator Stabenow's bill is a first step toward making sure the essential work done by farm workers is supported with the pay, benefits, and protections that essential work deserves. We look forward to making more progress so that we can truly honor the women and men who feed us.”

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