USDA, food companies work to close holiday donation gap

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 2012 - Food donations have suffered in the face of increased American agricultural exports, according to a Washington Post piece published yesterday - but it appears that some government and private programs are working to close the gap.

 Experience a renewed commitment to crop insurance.

This year's record-breaking drought and the globe's rising population have caused food prices to skyrocket, according to the Post report. That's “good news for American farmers,” but “bad news” for the American hungry. “The booming market means that the federal government does not need to buy as many excess crops from farmers, resulting in a precipitous drop in government donations to food banks,” the Post reported.

But holiday giving programs continue unabated.

The USDA's Share Your Harvest program passed the 1,000,000 pound mark for donations last November and continues through this year. The program asks USDA employees who participate in the agency's People's Garden Initiative to contribute their lots' harvest to the needy. Since 2009, when Secretary Vilsack began the People's Garden Initiative, more than 1,400 gardens have been started in all 50 states.

In Missouri, the Department of Conservation runs a similar Share Your Harvest program - though this one is less about vegetables and more about deer. In 2011, 6,191 hunters donated 317,882 pounds of their venison to the needy through the initiative.

Shoprite's year round Partners In Caring program has stepped up its efforts for the Thanksgiving holiday by donating 100,000 turkeys to Northeast food banks. Shoprite, which is owned by N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp., hopes the turkeys will provide some cheer to those affected by Superstorm Sandy. 

“Now, more than ever, our neighbors need our help,” said ShopRite Partners in Caring spokeswoman Christine Magyarits in a statement. “Helping families enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is something that we at ShopRite are truly thankful for.”

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