Harrisburg, PA – The Departments of Agriculture and Human Services were joined today by Minority Chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Senator Judy Schwank and charitable food organizations at the Capitol Hunger Garden to raise awareness of programs addressing food insecurity in Pennsylvania during Hunger Action Month.
"As we kick off Hunger Action Month, we are reminded of the role each of us – government agencies, policymakers, charitable food organizations, farmers, volunteers – can play to bring food to the table for our neighbors," said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "We cannot have a charitable food system without a food system that is charitable. I can't thank our farmers and producers, Governor Tom Wolf and our partners in the General Assembly, enough for their dedication to a mission we can all support: eliminating hunger in Pennsylvania."
Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Wolf has increased funding for programs that address hunger and food access by more than $80 million.
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) is an outstanding example of how farmers and food processors can support Pennsylvanians in need. PASS has distributed more than 23 million pounds of surplus food from farmers to Pennsylvanians in need, while simultaneously generating more than $40 million in economic output. More than 80 different Pennsylvania products have been sourced from 189 farmers, processors, and growers located in 50 counties across the commonwealth.
"Everyone in Pennsylvania deserves to have access to nutritious food and to have the security of knowing where their next meal is coming from," said Department of Human Services Deputy Secretary for the Office of Income Maintenance Inez Titus. "Our goal during Hunger Action Month is to ensure that Pennsylvanians know that help is available to put food on the table, whether that's through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a food bank or food pantry, or another community resource. We all need food and basic nutrition to live and thrive. If you or someone you care about does not have enough to eat, we have programs that can help, and you do not have to go through this alone."
"The beginning of Hunger Action Month should remind us all of just how prevalent food insecurity is in Pennsylvania. This issue is capable of impacting seniors, college students, young families, and everyone in between," said Sen. Schwank. "It's crucial that the legislature continues to partner with and support the state agencies tasked with administering food programs as well as the food banks that work tirelessly to feed people in need each day."
For nearly two million Pennsylvanians, going to bed hungry is a familiar and unfortunate reality.
"Hunger exists in every district and county across the entire state of Pennsylvania. With soaring food prices and the inflation rate at its highest in 40 years, many Pennsylvanians are facing impossible choices between buying food and paying for other necessities like rent and medicine," said Feeding Pennsylvania CEO Jane Clements. "When difficult times hit, food can be the first thing people forego to make ends meet, so Feeding PA invites individuals across the state to join us this Hunger Action Month to help raise awareness and funds to ensure that no one in Pennsylvania goes without food."
Gov. Wolf's legacy of working to improve food security in Pennsylvania includes:
- Investing in cold storage infrastructure for food banks to reduce food waste and increase capacity.
- Funding the PASS, which was enacted in 2010, for the first time in 2015 and increasing its funding annually thereafter, providing farmers the opportunity to put their excess product in the hands of families in need.
- Rebranding the Pennsylvania Senior Food Box Program to raise awareness, removing proof of income requirements, and offering delivery by DoorDash.
- Improving access to fresh, nutritious food in food deserts across the commonwealth through both the Fresh Food Financing Initiative and PA Farm Bill Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Program.
- Continually advocating for school children to have consistent access to free, nutritious meals.
- Raising income eligibility for Pennsylvanians receiving support from Pennsylvania's network of food banks and pantries from 150% to 185% to meet the needs of more individuals.
- Increasing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by expanding eligibility to include community college students, launching SNAP online ordering, streamlining the SNAP application for seniors and people with disabilities, and increasing SNAP 50/50 programs to 28 across the state.
For more resources and programs to help Pennsylvanians access nutritious foods, including the Senior Food Box Program and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, visit the Department of Agriculture's website.