Community Issues

Trade Tariffs Bring Unexpected Bounty for Food Banks

Who would think that a trade tariff could have a silver lining for hungry people? That's exactly what's happening across the country.

The growing trade war with China and other countries has a lot of negatives: lost jobs, higher prices, and a loss of export markets for some businesses. But there is one silver lining. The fact that many farmers can't sell their products overseas because of retaliatory tariffs means extra food for people who desperately need it here in the U.S.

USAToday says the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to buy $1.2 billion dollars in agricultural commodities, like dairy products, fruits and vegetables and meat, and distribute them to social service agencies like food banks.

This could mean not only more food, but more selection and definitely more fresh items. Mary Buchanan who uses United Food Bank in Mesa, Arizona, tells the paper she welcomes it. "It helps make ends meet, and it's a blessing," said Buchanan.

"It frees up money to pay other bills." Mary Buchanan, food pantry patron

The unexpected surplus is creating challenges for social service agencies, who have to figure out how to distribute the food quickly since most of it is perishable.

In Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has scheduled "pop-up food share" distributions each month through June, featuring fresh items. The next pop-up is April 5 at the agency's distribution center at 1 North Linden Street, Duquesne, PA. Click here for additional dates and income eligibility guidelines.

(Image: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank)

Food banks are also trying to round up more volunteers and even raise more money to get the extra food distributed quickly. The food bank in Mesa, Arizona tells USA today they're hoping to raise an extra $350,000 in coming months to get the increased food out, primarily to partner agencies.

"We need to move (donated food) within 12 days of receipt," Dave Richins, United Food Bank's president and CEO told the newspaper.

While everyone agrees it's great that food isn't going to waste, Mark O'Neill of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau tells the P-G, farmers hope negotiations will end the trade dispute. "Farmers are the innocent victims in all this," O'Neill said.

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