USDA Invests $1 Billion to Increase Capacity of Country’s Food Banks

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
food banks
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: An American Rescue Plan initiative under Build Back Better

Overview: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will invest one billion dollars to support food banks across the country.

Location: United States

Population: 332.9 million

Food policy category: Food security, nutrition

Program goals: To increase access to healthy foods and reduce food insecurity.

How it works: Funding for American food banks will include:

  • $500 million to purchase nutritious foods for state food banks: USDA will buy food from registered vendors to be distributed nationwide to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) providers. 
  • $400 million to strengthen local and regional food systems: USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will create cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to purchase food from local and regional producers and socially disadvantaged farmers, and to strengthen relationships between farmers, ranchers, and producers and the local and regional food systems. 
  • $100 million for infrastructure grants: A new grant program that will help food assistance agencies expand their reach into remote, rural, and low-income areas and support organizations that assist underserved communities. 

The funding will come in equal parts from the American Rescue Plan COVID stimulus bill and standard congressional appropriations.

Progress to date: The one billion dollar investment was announced on June 4, 2021. 

Why it is important: According to Feeding America, food banks are serving 55 percent more people now than they were before the pandemic, and 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, could still face hunger in 2021. 

Food insecurity disproportionately affects individuals and families who are living in poverty and people of color, which is why it is important for food assistance programs to expand their reach into underserved communities and support disadvantaged and minority populations. 

The increased financial assistance for food banks will help to reduce hunger in America and improve nutrition among low-income and food-insecure families. 

Program/Policy initiated: Build Back Better is President Biden’s plan to rescue, recover, and rebuild America. The American Rescue Plan, under which USDA’s investments fall, was signed into law on March 11, 2021. 

Point of contact: 
USDA Press

Similar practices: USDA plans to make several other investments under Build Back Better to improve American food systems in the coming months. On June 8, the organization announced its second investment – four billion dollars to strengthen critical food supply chains.

Evaluation: This initiative has not yet been formally evaluated, but it has been positively received by top leaders of hunger relief organizations, including Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America

Learn more: 


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