By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY — With food insecurity on the rise because of COVID-19, the Hays County Food Bank is in the fight to reverse recent funding cuts.
The local food bank is joining statewide advocates that are calling for the reversal of recent cuts to funding for food banks.
The Texas Department of Agriculture proposed a $1.98 million cut to the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, reducing the purchasing power of food banks. The proposed funding cut would prevent food banks from acquiring nearly 20 million pounds of local produce, impacting both Texas farmers and low-income Texas families.
“It’s something that’s really concerning,” Texas House Rep. Erin Zwiener (Dist. 45 – Driftwood) told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “The Texas Department of Agriculture has proposed a 40% cut right when we are seeing the need for food.”
While it is up to the Hays County Food Bank to provide food to Texan families who live in the area, Food Bank Executive Director Eleanor Owen-Oshan said funding cuts would reduce the number of people they can help.
“Hays County Food Bank is passionate about providing nutritious food,” Owen-Oshan said. “At each distribution, our goal is to make at least 1/3 of each offering be fresh produce. In 2020, we met that goal because of the produce we received through the help of this grant. Reducing our ability to procure fresh produce greatly diminishes the healthy foods we can hand out, thereby possibly impacting our clients health.”
Zwiener said she is in support of the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant program.
“This is not the time to cut these core social services,” Zwiener said. “Our communities need help and we can see that on the ground in Hays County with the families lining up hours ahead of time to get food at distribution events.”
Restoring the funding back into the budget is Zwiener’s top priority. Depending on which committee she is assigned to, Zwiener explained that she will advocate for providing the funding to the local food banks in Texas.
Residents are encouraged to contact their local representatives in support that the grant program should be fully funded.