East Texas Food Bank sees benefits from China tariffs

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Updated: Aug. 15, 2019 at 8:04 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -President Trump announced this week that he is putting off new tariffs on Chinese goods.

But experts say those tariffs were actually leading to more options for food distribution centers in East Texas and across the country.

GMET’s Brennon Gurley explains how it's actually helping food banks.

The unintended benefit to the trade war has been a lot of healthy foods coming in for clients in our pantries,” says Dennis Cullinane, Chief Executive Officer, East Texas Food Bank.

Cullinane says the nonprofit experiencing a surplus of meat and produce that normally would be exported to China.

However, since tariffs have been put in place by President Trump’s administration, it’s too expensive for foreign countries to purchase.

It means we’re going to get more access to foods that they may not of gotten before; that pantries will be able to handle more foods than they ever have before,” explains Cullinane.

Cullinane says the additional resources is part of a program created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is purchasing the food affected by the trade war with China.

The surplus of food is then given to food banks and other outlets that offer fresh fruits and vegetables to people who struggle to put food on the table. He says the toughest challenge is perishable food with a short shelf life.

“We’ve had to work hard to meet these increased demands from the other side. We’re used to trying the demands from our pantry side.”

Serving more than 250,000 clients in a 26-county area, Cullinane says they have now expanded their food distribution.

Since March, they have received 250,000 pounds of food. It doesn’t quite double what we’re doing. In fact, its offsets some of the product that we would have had to of purchased. As I said our budget was dry when it came in March and April, so this came at the right time."

Leaders call the fresh produce “high quality products” that families rarely see like milk, ham, split peas, pistachios, because they can’t always afford them.

“We’re flushed with things like garbanzo beans and navy beans and things that they’re not used to eating. It gives us an opportunity to send recipes and expose them to new things.”

The food bank says the influx of food is a welcome boost, but do to the tariff delays that surplus could come to an end in the coming months.

It means they’re going to have more choices. Unfortunately, it’s going to be temporary and we’re going to work hard after the trade mitigation is over to try to make sure that we can continue to meet those needs,” adds Cullinane.

He hopes people will recognize this is a temporary relief, as hunger in East Texas will continue to be an everyday problem.

We need to continue to grow our donations and our support on a daily basis. We can’t rely on these types of events to help make our goals a reality here in East Texas,” says Cullinane.

While it's uncertain how long the trade war will continue, Cullinane says the food bank still needs the community's support with monetary donations for the upcoming holiday.

Click here for more information on how you can help the East Texas Food Bank.

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