At Bowery, democratizing access to fresh, healthy food has been a priority since day one. It informs what we grow and how we grow it, where we build farms, and who we partner with. We’re fortunate to work with critical local nonprofits, such as New Jersey’s Table to Table (supported by our Kearny, NJ Farm) and the Maryland Food Bank (supported by our Nottingham, MD Farm), who help feed our communities. But in order to fundamentally change our food system, we need a collective effort across government, nonprofit and private sectors. That is why we are joining José Andrés—a Bowery investor and advisor—and food advocates nationwide in calling for support for the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries Act, or FEED Act.
During the pandemic hundreds of thousands of people have been laid off, more families are relying on government programs, food banks, and donations to feed themselves. Our current crisis management framework, and perhaps our food system as a whole, is not resilient enough to absorb shocks like COVID-19. To get stronger we must adapt and rethink how food is produced, distributed, sold, and consumed. And rethinking food access and distribution cannot be complete without partnering with lawmakers to change business as usual.
The FEED Act would expand FEMA assistance to those affected by the pandemic, allowing local and state governments to partner with restaurants and nonprofit groups to leverage their existing infrastructure, such as their food sourcing relationships and empty kitchens, to feed those in need, while the federal government pays for it.
Passing this bill could have a far reaching impact in the fight for food security. It would empower FEMA—a federal agency most associated with natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires—to mobilize and support the vulnerable during more invisible disasters like the pandemic. Widespread food insecurity, as we are experiencing now, is harder to picture than the immediate aftermath of an earthquake or landslide, but it is just as pressing (the number of Americans fighting hunger are projected to swell 45% in 2020 to more than 50 million). Given the gravity of the crisis facing the country, FEMA (and its greater financial resources) could more effectively help us combat hunger nationwide. In addition to tapping federal funds, the FEED Act could help put to work many of the millions of restaurant workers who are currently out of jobs. It would leverage their knowledge and expertise to help nourish those unable to feed themselves.
The FEED Act has bipartisan support. It was approved in the House as part of the HEROES Act, but still awaits consideration in the Senate, and its passage isn’t assured. As things on the ground change and competing priorities take up policymakers’ agendas, this impactful proposal could be overlooked. Bowery is committed to pushing our lawmakers to pass the FEED Act into law. Whether it’s this crisis or the next, passing the FEED Act will help us take care of our own that much better.
September is Hunger Action Month, an opportune time to amplify awareness for this legislation. If you’d like to support the adoption of the FEED Act, call or write your senators and representatives and urge them to take action to support our food system. You can also visit World Central Kitchen’s website for a sample letter to policymakers.