Jul 30, 2020 6:02 PM

Second Harvest CEO testifies at congressional hearing about pandemic experience

Posted Jul 30, 2020 6:02 PM

by SARAH THOMACK

St. Joseph Post

The CEO of Second Harvest Community Food Bank shared testimony at a congressional hearing this week on the food bank’s response to the pandemic.

Second Harvest CEO Chad Higdon and others virtually joined the subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management to share about the experiences of vulnerable populations during disasters.

“I was able to provide feedback on what we’re seeing here in Missouri and Kansas," Higdon says. "Also (I) reached out to food banks across the country to get a sense of how it’s been working for them working with FEMA and through other federal programs really to respond to the increased need in demand that we’re seeing across the country.”

Higdon reported that from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, Second Harvest distributed nearly 9.9 million pounds of food through direct service programs and partner agency distributions. Prior to the pandemic, Second Harvest reportedly served an estimated 45,000 individuals identified as food insecure out of a total estimated population of 350,000. The estimated number of food insecure is expected to increase by approximately five percent to an estimated 64,000 individuals as a result of the pandemic. 

Higdon says, as part of his testimony, he provided insight on the wide range of federal support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and how that’s helped the food bank respond to increasing needs.

“What we’re seeing is it really helped us meet the demand with the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, food purchases through Families First and the CARES Act,” Higdon says. “All that’s really supported that increased need and through our work we really do make an effort to understand the need county by county, so no matter who’s struggling, we try to reach them where they are and make sure all of our food that we have available is (getting) to everybody that needs the help right now.”

In talking with food banks from across the country, Higdon says the main thing he heard was confusion on how the reimbursement process through FEMA for emergency food distribution works. That confusion led to some local emergency managers not applying for available funds. His recommendations to the subcommittee referenced that and .   

“Just providing state emergency management agencies clarity through the FEMA regions would be helpful and continuance of food purchases, especially shelf-stable," Higdon says. "Our refrigeration capacity and freezer capacity right now is really stressed and so the more shelf-stable product that we can get access to to help us distribute and get out right now would certainly be helpful and then obviously continuance of utilization of the National Guard would really help.”  

Higdon testified at the congressional hearing at the request of Congressman Sam Graves. 

“It was just an honor to be able to provide that perspective and insight that hopefully helps lawmakers with their decision making and ways to always look at improving what the federal government can do specific to this - disaster response,” Higdon says.

To view the full congressional hearing, click here.