A group of Senate Democrats urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prioritize funding for emergency food assistance.

Sens. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (D-Pa.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandJimmy Carter predicts US will eventually have single-payer healthcare system Trump's DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana OPINION | Hey Dems, Russia won't define 2018, so why not fix your party's problems instead? MORE (D-N.Y.) lead a group of 26 other senators in sending a letter Thursday to USDA Secretary Tom VilsackThomas J. VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE calling on him to make emergency purchases to help food banks stock nutritious food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

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The senators said if emergency purchases aren’t made this fiscal year, federal support for TEFAP will drop more than $100 million.

“TEFAP commodities are critical to emergency food providers, and, more importantly, to struggling American families,” the senators wrote. “Yet, our nation’s food banks continue to struggle to meet the sustained high need in their communities.”

The senators said one in eight Americans rely on emergency food assistance each year. They said if TEFAP funding drops it could “seriously deplete” food bank stocks.

“Without additional TEFAP commodities, these agencies will be hard-pressed to continue providing current levels of food assistance to those in need,” the letter stated. “We encourage you to utilize your existing funds and authority to fulfill TEFAP commodity purchases.”

The senators said Vilsack could use funds already appropriated to close the shortfall as well as price and market support programs to meet food banks’ needs for commodities.