Philadelphia, PA - Secretaries from the departments of Agriculture and Human Services today joined Philabundance and Feeding Pennsylvania to recognize Hunger Action Month and encourage continued support for Pennsylvania’s charitable food network, which has seen an unprecedented rise in need amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic downturn. Pennsylvania’s charitable food network and food assistance programs are available so anyone who is having trouble making ends meet during this economic uncertainty does not have to go hungry.
“Having enough to eat is essential to achieving quality of life and people who do not have enough to eat are less healthy and experience greater challenges across their lifespan influence how healthy someone. All of this was true before the pandemic, and it’s especially true now,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “The Wolf Administration and our partners in the charitable food network will continue to be here to support Pennsylvanians as this public health crisis and period of economic insecurity evolve. If you are struggling to make ends meet or keep food on the table, you are not alone, and resources are available, so no one has to go hungry.”
More than 2 million Pennsylvanians – including 630,000 children – do not have reliable access to adequate, nutritious meals and live in food insecurity every day. According to Feeding Pennsylvania, nearly 1 in 20 Pennsylvanians are newly food insecure. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
“No one in Pennsylvania should ever go hungry,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Through the generosity of our farmers and charitable food network partners like Philabundance, and through continued investment in programs like PASS that get excess food to hungry families, we are working to ensure that no one does go hungry. There is help available. If your family is facing that possibility, please take advantage of these resources. You are not alone.”
Pennsylvania’s charitable food network is a critical partner in fighting hunger in communities across the commonwealth. Food banks in Pennsylvania typically serve approximately 2.2 million people annually, but in the first three months of the public health crisis, these food banks had more than 5.5 million visits. The COVID-19 public health crisis has exacerbated food insecurity across nearly our entire commonwealth. Before COVID-19, three counties had a food security rate at or above 13 percent. Today, 64 of 67 counties are at least 13 percent food insecure, and 32 counties are at least 16.5 percent food insecure.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our food banks have seen an incredible increase in food insecurity rates across the state — including Philadelphia which has the highest food insecurity rate in Pennsylvania.” said Jane Clements-Smith, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania. “The charitable food network continues to work hard to meet the sustained increased demand, but we still need the support of our generous communities across the commonwealth. Hunger Action Month is another opportunity to raise awareness about hunger and to remind donors, volunteers, and stakeholders that we need their support to ensure that no one in Pennsylvania is denied access to nutritious food. We are proud to partner with our member food bank, Philabundance, and want to recognize the incredible work they have done now and throughout the pandemic.”
Philabundance serves residents of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties in Southeast Pennsylvania, reaching at least 90,000 people each week before the pandemic. Philabundance works with a network of 350 local agencies to distribute food products like fresh produce, dairy, and bread products for local distribution. From March to July of 2020, Philabudance distributed approximately 5.3 million pounds of food to it agency network, a 125 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019. Due to interruptions in food donations, increased need from the community, and increased food prices, Philabudance anticipates spending twice as much on food in 2020 than last year.
“Today we are showing how well government and nonprofits can work together to end hunger for good,” said Loree Jones, CEO of Philabundance. “And it could not come at a better time as we are seeing more people in need of food. Many of the people coming to us for help are those who’ve never before relied upon a charitable food system. And all of this in the middle of a health pandemic, which has created additional challenges for us, for our employees and for those who so desperately need to be served.”
Help with buying food is also available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP helps nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households have resources to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. SNAP is our country’s most important and most impactful anti-hunger program. For every meal provided by a Feeding Pennsylvania food bank, SNAP provides nine. While SNAP is intended to be a supplemental program, during a pandemic and historic unemployment, resources are strained, particularly for our lowest income Pennsylvanians.
Applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Clients in Philadelphia with questions or who need a paper application mailed to them should call the Philadelphia Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226. Clients in all other counties can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930. All Pennsylvanians experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic, a lost job, or a change in income are strongly encouraged to apply and see if they qualify for assistance with food, health care, and other essential needs.
Anyone interested in volunteering can find organizations in need of volunteer support on the United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211 website.
For more information about Philabudance and local agency partners, visit www.philabundance.org.
For more information about food assistance resources for people around Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic insecurity, visit the Department of Agriculture’s food security guide.
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