The Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, commonly known as the "cheese program," needs a new nickname.
The program, which provides surplus commodities to eligible low-income households, hasn't had cheese for nearly a year and probably won't again.Beth Van Antwerp, federal food programs coordinator, said the program, originally designed to utilize surpluses like cheese and other dairy products, has done its job. The supplies are, in fact, depleted.
Unfortunately, low-income people have come to rely on the programs to meet some of their nutritional needs, but cutbacks in federal money to administer the program and a lack of some commodities may jeopardize the program's future.
The Reagan administration did not include $50 million, the price of administrative costs nationwide, in its budget. The Democrat-controlled Congress voted to restore the money. It is not included in the Bush budget either, and commodities program administrators are wondering if Congress will again vote to save the program.
Utah receives about $250,000 from the $50 million to cover administrative costs.
"I seriously doubt that most states will provide the administrative funding themselves," said Dick Winters, Community Services Council director. "Some can't afford it. And without that money, there won't be a commodities program."
In the first quarter of 1989, commodities in Utah included beans and butter, cornmeal, powdered egg mix, flour, peanut butter, canned pork and raisins. Honey, powdered milk and rice, which were originally on the list, were not available.
With a number of foods becoming scarce in the program, Congress voted last year to give the U.S. Department of Agriculture $120 million to purchase commodities. While that seems like a lot, Van Antwerp said, it isn't enough to replace the cheese that's no longer available, which was valued at about $630 million.