Erie, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and representatives from the departments of Health, Aging, and Education today visited Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania during the Wolf Administration’s Hunger Action Month tour to highlight charitable food networks and supports that fight food insecurity in communities across Pennsylvania.
“More than 1.5 million people around Pennsylvania experience food insecurity and may not know where they will get their next meal,” said Secretary Teresa Miller. “For too many people, food insecurity is their daily reality. We must do our part to ensure access to food assistance programs are available for our neighbors, so we can eliminate the growing hunger gaps across Pennsylvania.”
September is National Hunger Action Month. In Pennsylvania, approximately 1.53 million Pennsylvanians experience chronic hunger and food insecurity every day. Food insecurity means not having access to reliable and nutritious meals. Since hunger and health are deeply connected, the effects of inadequate food are profound. Those effects include increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and charitable food networks around the commonwealth help working adults, people with disabilities, older adults, and children access food and expand their purchasing power so they do not have to choose between paying for a doctor’s appointment or being able to eat dinner.
Charitable food networks around the commonwealth do important work every day to help Pennsylvanians experiencing hunger, but they cannot end food insecurity alone. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program serving 1.8 million Pennsylvanians. The combination of charity and government assistance programs are necessary to help bridge the meal gap. Without both resources, more people would have to choose between basic needs and keeping food on the table.
In Erie County, where Second Harvest is located, there are nearly 39,000 people who experience food insecurity. Of this population, almost 12,000 are children under the age of 18. Second Harvest works with organizations which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, Produce Express mobile distributions, Military Share – a Produce Express Program, School Pantries, BackPack Programs and Senior Box distribution sites to distribute food to those in need. In northwest Pennsylvania, Second Harvest is the largest food relief organization and provides food to 399 member agencies and distribution partners throughout the 11 counties of northwest Pennsylvania. Last year, Second Harvest distributed 9.6 million meals to individuals in need.
In addition to SNAP helping keep food on the table and curve health care costs, SNAP helps local economies. In May 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a study on the influence of SNAP redemptions on the economy and county-level employment in the time leading up to, during, and after the Great Recession. This study found that SNAP redemptions could have a greater economic stimulus impact than many other forms of government spending per dollar spent, especially during a recession, because they are paid directly to low-income individuals. For instance, the grocery subsidies deliver food directly to tables along with a financial return into rural supermarkets and small businesses in those communities.
There are more than 10,000 authorized retailers that participate in SNAP across Pennsylvania. These retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits in 2018 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. SNAP also provides support for programs like SNAP 50/50, where non-profit organizations leverage their funding with matched funds from the federal government to provide career-specific skills training for people receiving SNAP benefits.
“SNAP is not just the nation’s most important anti-hunger program – it helps support local farmers and small businesses and grow economies around the country. If proposed federal changes to the SNAP program take effect, the impacts will be felt well beyond just SNAP recipients,” said Secretary Miller. “Food assistance is a simple investment in the public good for all of us We must lift up the stories of the many Pennsylvanians for whom food assistance programs like SNAP and the help from charitable food organizations is invaluable and protect and preserve these life-saving resources.”
For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, visit www.nwpafoodbank.org.
For more information on food assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - 717-425-7606
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