The Department of Agriculture and Human Services (DHS) discussed the Wolf Administration’s efforts to support Pennsylvania’s charity food network and food aid programs so that none of Pennsylvania residents go hungry during the COVID-19 public health crisis, thanks to a disaster declaration issued by Governor Tom Wolf.
The Pennsylvania disaster declaration authority has enabled the government to leverage the more than $ 1 billion in additional federally funded food aid as well as the other resources and regulatory flexibility needed to address the challenges many Pennsylvania residents continue to experience.
Administration officials speak ahead of primary elections next month when Pennsylvania residents will vote on whether the commonwealth should continue with the existing disaster declaration process or create a new one.
“Over the past year we have seen that disease does not follow a timeline, and as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the Commonwealth of food insecurity rates in Pennsylvania increased by 30 percent from 2019,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“The government’s ability to act quickly and collect resources, through emergency power, allows Pennsylvania residents who need food to come to the food bank or say they need assistance, without proof of eligibility, and receive food for themselves and their families,” continued Redding. ” As we work to recover from the pandemic, we hope to continue to have the resources available to the nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvania residents projected to face food insecurity by 2021. Recovery takes time and Pennsylvania residents deserve to rest knowing the government is backing them. “
Inadequate diet and chronic nutritional deficiencies can have a profound impact on a person’s life and health, including an increased risk of chronic disease, a higher likelihood of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased healthcare costs. As countries continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential necessities such as food is becoming more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and reduce co-occurring health risks.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently found in a survey conducted in February 2021 that 22 million adults across the country said their households had not had enough to eat in the previous week – more than double the number that indicated the same in the previous week. in 2019.
Feeding America projects that 12 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in Pennsylvania will be food insecure by 2021. Feeding America notes that projections for 2021 and overall food insecurity experienced in 2020 are lower than initially projected due to federal, state efforts. section, and local. government as well as working with charity food chains.
Since March 2020, the Pennsylvania food bank has provided more than 283 million pounds of food. The food bank and dedicated volunteers who staff their distribution operations serve an average of 551,700 people around the commonwealth each week. The network provides fresh and healthy produce, dairy, protein, and shelf-stable products to help individuals and families in their communities meet these important needs.
Pennsylvania is also leveraging powers granted under the First Family Coronavirus Response Act to request additional funding through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally funded food assistance program that assists more than 1.8 million Pennsylvania residents by providing money each month. to spend. foodstuffs, helping households to buy enough food so as not to starve.
For each meal provided by the Feeding Pennsylvania food bank, SNAP provides nine. SNAP funds can only be used for certain food products such as fresh produce and meat, dairy products and other food ingredients. Although SNAP was intended as a supplemental program, during the pandemic and historic unemployment, resources were limited, especially for the lowest-income Pennsylvania population.
Since March 2020, the Pennsylvanians have received approximately $ 100 million each month and more than $ 1 billion in total federally funded SNAP funding to help certain low-income individuals and families – about 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s SNAP population.
Following a settlement between the United States Department of Agriculture and Community Legal Services, all SNAP households will now begin receiving regular monthly emergency rations as long as the Pennsylvania disaster declaration, required to authorize emergency rations, remains in effect. The Biden Administration recently issued guidelines indicating that all-state SNAP recipients will now be able to receive an additional minimum of an additional $ 95 each month.
“This federally funded food aid that we can provide through SNAP is an important investment in the ability of our communities to survive and recover from the challenges of this pandemic – challenges that can have long-term impacts on health and well-being. our community if we let them survive, ”said DHS Senior Advisor Teresa Miller.
“As we look towards this recovery, we must continue to support this program and our charity food network so that they can meet sustainable needs and we can all move forward from this challenging year together,” continued Miller.
This new interpretation means that $ 150 million in federally funded food aid will be available to support individuals and families in Pennsylvania as well as wholesalers, small businesses, and food producers and retailers who accept SNAP, directly benefiting our local economy.
In May 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a study on the effects of the SNAP redemption on district-level economies and employment leading up to, during, and after the Great Recession. The study found that SNAP redemptions can have a greater economic stimulus impact than other forms of government spending per dollar spent, especially during a recession, because they are paid directly to low-income individuals and keep food on the table while supporting local food producers, retailers. , and other small businesses in the Pennsylvania grocery supply chain.