On Tuesday, we celebrated National Agriculture Day, a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Our association of food banks and its members is indebted to Hoosier agriculture as donors, partners and producers who supply what no Hoosier should have to go without – food.
Over my years of working with Indiana's farmers, I've had the opportunity to tell many of them what our food banks and pantries do to help Indiana's hungry. To a one, every farmer has told me in response that they donate to their regional food bank through programs such as the Million Meals pork purchase program with Indiana Pork.
They also work with their county Farm Bureau to supply food or funds to local organizations, provide nonperishable items for their church pantry or take extra produce from the garden to neighbors who need help. Hoosier farmers understand that they're part of the collective agriculture community that is feeding the world – no exceptions.
For all Hoosiers, including those who get help from a USDA nutrition program, food bank or pantry, the bulk of what nourishes them comes from the grocery store and, before that, a farm. Thanks in large part to increased efficiency and productivity on U.S. farms, Americans enjoy a food supply that is abundant, affordable and safe. On average, American households spend just 6.4 percent of their annual income on food – the lowest percentage in the world.
For the nearly 1 million Hoosiers at risk of hunger, our member food banks work diligently to provide access to protein, dairy and produce through the charitable distribution that provided more than 63 million meals across Indiana last year through 11 food banks and more than 1,800 local points for distribution.
These meals come from partners and donors in retail, the USDA and some straight from farmers. But the meals the charitable sector provides are stopgap measures, a finger in the dike for many families.
As the year progresses and Congress begins more discussion and debate on the farm bill, we look forward to continued collaboration with Indiana's agriculture organizations and our Hoosier delegation in Congress for a strong farm bill for all involved to ensure that fewer and fewer Hoosiers go hungry.
Emily Weikert Bryant is executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry.