Our Executive Director Marcia Wright-Soika recently had the opportunity to share her testimony with Congresswomen Kim Schrier and Stacey Plaskett at the Washington state Farm Bill hearing. Click the video above to view her testimony or read her remarks below:
Good morning Congresswoman Schrier, Madam Chair Plaskett, and members of the committee. I am Marcia Wright-Soika, executive director of FamilyWorks, a food access and family services organization based in North Seattle. While the last two pandemic years have brought tremendous hardship, it has also brought the opportunity for us to learn, pursue food justice with the farm bill and invest in citizens who are the furthest away from that justice. Our food bank is one of many that rely on The Emergency Food Assistance Program but know how much better it could be if it expands flexible purchasing to local, small farmers and producers, and brings fresh foods to food banks and pantries.
The people we serve need this access. Each week we have fewer options and high demand. In a recent survey, our food bank participants requested “more vegetables, less sugar” and “more organic items.” 87% said “fruits and vegetables’ were most needed. One person said access to farm fresh foods “means my family can be healthy.”
Unfortunately, those choices are taken away from us when we receive canned or bulky TEFAP commodities that our program participants cannot use, that are not culturally relevant, that we cannot refuse to accept, that stay on our shelves until they ultimately contribute to waste.
We can make different choices. A small federal grant to support farm purchasing gave FamilyWorks the ability to become one of the biggest customers of a small brand-new woman-owned farm in 2020. We can choose to invest in local farmers and producers. We can choose to expand program income eligibility to at least 250% at a time when low-income and middle-class families are stretched to their limits.
I urge Congress to improve the TEFAP program and choose justice.