The most recent donation to the Poverello Center, Inc., as of last Wednesday, was 420 pounds of bacon, courtesy of Imperial Meats. The bacon, like recent deliveries of elk and venison, was a welcome gift. One month ago, the Pov, the largest shelter in Montana, learned its main commodities supplier, the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP), had no more meat.
“They are our primary source of meat,” says Director of Development Julie Emnett.
As a result, the Pov’s $300 monthly grocery bill has nearly doubled, says Emnett, and its clients will be forced to reduce meat consumption by 40 to 50 percent. EFAP also supplies the Montana Food Bank Network, which in turn distributes to food pantries at the Carole A. Graham Home, Opportunity Resources, Inc., YWCA Pathways, Missoula Food Bank, and the Salvation Army Missoula Corps., among others. Network Executive Director Peggy Grimes says that typically about two thirds of the food the network provides comes from EFAP. The Network is part of a national organization, America’s Second Harvest, and Grimes is sending an alert out to national donors.
Forest Farris is the food distribution section chief for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which administers EFAP. With a $394,000 budget for the year, EFAP serves over 200 soup kitchens and food banks in Montana, he says. Now, six months into the year, the meat is gone.
“We try to spread it out over 12 months as best we can,” says Farris. Traditionally, however, EFAP has filled food orders in full as long as requestors are low on inventory and aren’t “hoarding food.” Next year, he says, EFAP may change its method of supplying and allocating commodities.
Farris attributes the shortfall to an unexpected increase in demand. Increased demand, says Emnett, is due in part to federal cuts to public assistance.
“What we think we’re seeing are results of the TANF [Technical Assistance to Needy Families] cut,” she says.
In a typical year, says Farris, one truckload of chicken can supply the state for six months. Not this year.
“The last truckload of chicken blew out of here in a month,” he says.