Harrisburg, PA - An innovative program to put healthy and nutritious food grown by Pennsylvania farmers into the charitable food system that was established six years ago – but never funded – will finally get off the ground thanks to first-ever funding through the 2015-16 state budget, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said today when he announced the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank as the winning bidder to implement the program, known as the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System.
Governor Tom Wolf proposed funding for the program in his 2015-16 budget proposal. The commonwealth’s final budget makes $1 million available to implement the program statewide.
“Hunger impacts every county in Pennsylvania,” said Secretary Redding. “We have an estimated 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who struggle with where their next meal is coming from, and nearly 600,000 of those people are children. In a state with an agricultural industry as robust as we have here in Pennsylvania, that is simply unacceptable.
“There is healthy and nutritious food available in the fields that never makes it into the food supply, and we want to see it put onto the plates of people who need it. I’ve often said that you cannot have a charitable food system without a food system that is charitable. This program makes it easier for more of the state’s producers to contribute to the cause.”
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, or PASS, was created in 2010 following a successful 2008 pilot program in southcentral Pennsylvania. Under the pilot program, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank was able to acquire 128,740 pounds of Pennsylvania-grown surplus apples with a retail value of $188,604 for an actual cost of only $41,180, or about $.32 per pound. The apples were then packed in three-pound bags that were distributed among the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s 27-county service region.
In February of this year, the department issued a competitive request for proposals to implement PASS. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank was the winning bidder.
With the funding appropriated through the state’s 2015-16 budget, the food bank and the state’s charitable feeding organizations will secure a variety of surplus agricultural products produced in Pennsylvania, creating additional supply to feed those who are at risk of hunger and providing an alternative market for many farmers in the commonwealth who currently have no outlet for safe, but lower-graded product.
“PASS will provide an opportunity to create new markets for many of the state’s farmers and food producers who currently have no outlets or limited opportunity for surplus product,” Redding added. “The program will also provide a safe, efficient system for farmers wishing to donate products to the charitable food system. Producers, packers and processors participating in PASS may be reimbursed for costs involved in harvesting, processing and/or packaging, and transporting donated product. In this way, Pennsylvania-produced products will stay in the state to help meet people’s basic food needs.”
“We are honored to be chosen as the contractor for the PASS Program for the 2015-16 fiscal year, and we are thankful to everyone involved in wisely establishing this program,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “We view the PASS Program as a win-win-win situation: a win for Pennsylvania agriculture, a win for local food sourcing, and a win for Pennsylvanians in need that will receive this healthy bounty.”
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has for almost 35 years been engaged in the acquisition and distribution of wholesome surplus food to people in need in Pennsylvania and has the infrastructure and partnership network needed to receive and coordinate the distribution of Pennsylvania agriculture products throughout the entire state.
As part of the PASS implementation process, the department is developing a database of producers who want to be considered as sources of product for the program. This database will include farmers who offer products such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, beef, pork and poultry.
Pennsylvania producers interested in participating in PASS can contact the department’s Bureau of Food Distribution at 800-468-2433.
PASS is just one aspect of Governor Wolf’s targeted approach to addressing food insecurity issues throughout Pennsylvania. In late September 2015, the governor issued an executive order establishing the Governor’s Food Security Partnership. The executive order was announced during the state Food Security Summit, which brought together representatives from the state departments of Aging, Agriculture, Education, Community and Economic Development, Health, and Human Services, as well as several stakeholder groups from the private and non-profit sectors to discuss how to best coordinate efforts to tackle hunger in Pennsylvania.
For more information on the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, visit www.agriculture.pa.us. For more information on the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, visit www.centralpafoodbank.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brandi Hunter-Davenport - 717.787.5085
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