SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The federal government needs to fully activate existing food security programs to help millions of Americans who are at risk of going hungry due to the coronavirus and the efforts to stop its spread, according to celebrity chef Jose Andres.

The Trump Administration should also be working with restaurants, farmers, non-profit groups, food banks and the nation’s food distribution system operators to ensure that crops and agricultural products that are being dumped or left to rot make it to American tables, Andres said.

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“We need to get the food from rural areas to places where people need the food,” he said. “We need to recognize that food is a national security issue. We need to take care of food the same way we protect our military defense.”

Andres made the comments during a Facebook Live event with U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Ill., on Thursday. Andres praised Congress for bipartisan support of pandemic food assistance, like the $19 billion set aside in the CARES Act for food banks and farmers via the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

He also urged the federal government to fully implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance and Specialty Crop Block Grant programs, among other things, in order to ensure that the country avoid a massive humanitarian crisis due to the pandemic.

“I do believe we have an emergency on our hands,” Andres said.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a new program that would bring together farmers and ranchers suffering from decreased demand for produce with food banks helping an ever increasing number of families in need amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The announced plan will be financed in part by federal funds, Newsom said. The Governor also recently announced his plan working with FEMA to put idle restaurants to work providing meals for the state’s seniors in need.

The famed chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and philanthropist is the founder of World Central Kitchen, an organization that provides food aid in the wake of natural and manmade disasters.

World Central Kitchen helped feed people quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruse ship in Japan and the Grand Princess ship in Oakland. 

The organization is currently feeding thousands of people out of the Baltimore Orioles baseball stadium and in dozens of other distribution centers around the country, Andres said.

“When you have emergencies, you send doctors and nurses,” he said. “When you have to rebuild after an earthquake, you send architects. When you have to feed people, you send the best people and those are the cooks.”

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Davis said he’s introducing a bill soon that would provide additional federal resources for rural food assistance and during the Facebook event, Swalwell asked to be included as a sponsor of the legislation.