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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Robbing food banks?

Bread for the World, a hunger advocacy group, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is robbing church-run food banks to support ranchers with drought relief.

"Has it really come to this, that we're taking beans, beef and peaches out of the mouths of hungry schoolchildren so the money can be used as cattle feed?" asked David Beckmann, an ELCA pastor and the group's president.

Bread for the World argues that the Agriculture Department can't afford to spend $752 million in drought relief and still pay an average of $180 million for surplus food that is passed on to pantries, soup kitchens and school lunch programs.

The department buys surplus food from farmers to stabilize prices. Since 1988 it has spent additional money — an average of $180 million annually — on bonus surpluses that are split between school lunch programs and community food banks, two-thirds of which are operated by religious groups.

Beckmann's analysis says the government food program will face a deficit of at least $261 million this year, not including the $180 million in bonus buys.


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