One of the perhaps unexpected winners of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war has been food banks, both locally and nationwide.
The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, for instance, has been receiving “more than double” its regular distribution of USDA commodities, as an indirect result of the Trump administration’s trade dispute with China, says Chief Operations Officer Bob Kanas. Other food banks around the country are seeing similar shipment increases.
That’s because the USDA has agreed to purchase surplus commodities from farmers impacted by the trade war and distribute those goods to food banks and other organizations that serve the poor. It’s part of the broader federal aid package, which includes bailout payments, to assist farmers suffering from retaliatory tariffs and left with an oversupply of crops unable to be exported.
The additional inventory at food banks has been significant. The Food Bank of Central New York received 4.4 million pounds of USDA commodities this fiscal year, compared to 3.5 million pounds last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The increased USDA shipments have been “really helping” the Baton Rouge area food bank, Kanas says, especially as the holiday season draws closer. Another added benefit is that the extra inventory includes fresh, healthy foods.
“It includes fresh produce, apples, grapes, more meat than ever—pork and chicken, fish, beef—things farmers aren’t able to sell overseas right now,” he says. “The government is helping keep (farmers) whole by purchasing and redistributing commodities.”
Last fall, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank had to put out urgent calls for more donations to fill its depleted shelves ahead of the holidays. So the increased USDA distributions this year have been more than welcomed.
“We’re feeling like we’re in a much better position right now,” Kanas says. “We can always use more donations so we can give out more food.”