LANCASTER – On Thursday Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller led a roundtable discussion of PASS, the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, which provides farmers funding to get food that would otherwise go to waste to vulnerable families who need it most.
Gov. Tom Wolf requested a $1 million funding increase for the program in his 2020-’21 budget proposal.
Lancaster-based Hess Brother’s Fruit Company, which has donated more than 373,000 pounds of fresh fruit to the program, hosted the discussion among contributing growers as well as charitable food organizations and processors who are program partners.
“Agriculture is the antidote to hunger,” Redding said. “Pennsylvania farmers produce some of the best and most plentiful food in the world, but the extra food they produce isn’t always where hungry families are. PASS gets that food where it is needed, while supporting the generosity of farmers like the Hess family.”
Since the PASS program was first funded in April of 2016, more than 11.4 million pounds of food has been distributed to all 67 counties in the state through partners that are part of the Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania networks of food banks.
Sixty different Pennsylvania-produced foods have been sourced from 134 farmers, processors and growers across the state. The foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese and other items that are often difficult for food pantries to obtain.
According to the USDA, in 2017, more than 1.53 million Pennsylvanians – that’s one in every eight people – don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.
The roundtable sought to gather input from program partners, including the charitable food organizations facing challenges stemming from new federal rules limiting who can participate in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, helps more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians afford and access healthy, nutritious food every day,” said Miller.
“When I visit local food banks and meet SNAP recipients, I hear how people stretch their SNAP dollars as far as possible before they need to turn to other government assistance programs and local food networks to help get to the end of the month.
“Through partnerships like PASS, we are able to bridge the growing hunger gaps and expand access to fresh, healthy foods to citizens across Pennsylvania.”
Find out more about the Wolf Administration’s strategy to end hunger in Pennsylvania at dhs.pa.gov/about/ending-hunger. For more on the PASS program, including a map of distributors, visit agriculture.pa.gov.