HARRISBURG – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding on Friday thanked Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly for making food security a priority, boosting farm income and putting fresh, local foods on the tables of Pennsylvanians in need.
The 2021-22 state budget appropriates $22.688 million for the department’s anti-hunger programs. This includes $20.188 million for the State Food Purchase Program, an increase of $2 million, and $2.5 million for the Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System (PASS), an increase of $1 million.
“The pandemic shined a light on investments Pennsylvania has made to strengthen agriculture,” said Redding.
“But it also brought to light the struggles far too many families face in putting food on their tables. By continuing to fund innovative partnerships to feed families across the state, Pennsylvania is supporting farmers and nonprofits, and ensuring that hunger does not become our next pandemic.”
The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) program connects the non-profit sector to farms and food processors to help solve the problems of food waste and hunger.
The program funds the harvest, transport, processing and packaging of surplus food from PA farms that would otherwise go to waste.
The food is then distributed to families in 67 counties through a contract with Feeding Pennsylvania and a network of thirteen regional, charitable food distributors.
Originally enacted into law in 2010, Wolf first funded PASS in 2015 at $1 million. The 2017-18 budget increased funding to $1.5 million annually, the funding level until this increase.
In August of 2020, the legislature awarded PASS an additional $10 million from the state’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocation, with $5 million designated for dairy products.
The program provides cash grants to county commissioners who distribute funds through contracts with foodbanks, to purchase food and help finance transportation and infrastructure improvements to meet increasing demand.
Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that fund emergency food distribution for low-income residents. The program is the largest of its kind in the nation.
“This funding will go a long way to helping us meet a demand that has not subsided,” said Hunger-Free Pennsylvania Executive Director Sheila Christopher.
“In normal times, far too many Pennsylvanians are challenged by hunger, but COVID-19 has made this struggle measurably worse for residents in need and those who try to help them.”
“We’re grateful to the General Assembly and administration for recognizing that food banks simply cannot go back to pre-pandemic funding levels,” said Feeding Pennsylvania Executive Director Jane Clements. “The need is still far too great.”
According to Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap report, in 2019, more than 1.35 million Pennsylvanians – 10.6 percent of all state residents – didn’t always know where their next meal was coming from.
In 2021, as a result of the pandemic, Feeding America estimates that 1.54 million Pennsylvanians are facing food insecurity, an estimated 12 percent, diminishing some of the gains made in previous years.
For more information about investments in food security and resources for Pennsylvanians in need, visit agriculture.pa.gov/foodsecurity.
For more about the 2021-2022 Pennsylvania budget, visit budget.pa.gov.