HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Wolf Administration’s Food Security Partnership today hosted the annual food security summit to update stakeholders, advocates, and federal partners about Pennsylvania’s progress with the Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA to address food insecurity and discuss work to combat hunger around Pennsylvania.
“Food insecurity has overwhelming impacts on so many parts of our society,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “The work that has been done to accomplish necessary steps from the Blueprint is a testament to a government that works together to provide Pennsylvanians the resources to live a healthy and happy life. Everyone should be proud of the work that has been accomplished to date, but we know there is still work to be done to ensure no one lives with chronic hunger.”
More than 1.53 million Pennsylvanians experience chronic hunger every day, including 478,500 older Pennsylvanians and about 437,000 children. Since hunger and health are deeply connected, the effects of chronic hunger are profound, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Adequate access to healthy meals is also critical to child development and success in education so kids can focus in school and lead healthier, more productive lives.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, helping 1.8 million Pennsylvanians keep food on their tables. Programs like SNAP and charitable food networks around the commonwealth help working adults, people with disabilities, older adults, and children access food and expand their purchasing power so they do not have to choose between paying for rent or being able to eat dinner.
The Wolf Administration is committed to ensuring everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. The Governor’s Food Security Partnership includes the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Health, and Human Services. Since the Governor’s Food Security Partnership released Setting the Table: A Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA in 2016, the Partnership and charitable food partners have made significant impacts in our communities in the past three years. The role of charitable food organizations played an essential role in improving access to local food resources and increasing awareness of food insecurity.
This year alone, the Wolf Administration increased opportunities for Pennsylvanians by:
- Supporting partnerships with 14 employment and training providers and continuing to establish new partnerships in order to meet a goal of expanding to 30 SNAP 50/50 training sites by end of year;
- Assisting more than 400,000 elderly or disabled individuals currently receiving benefits due to the Elderly/Disabled Simplified Application Project (ESAP) resulting in a 10 percent increase in eligible seniors receiving SNAP benefits;
- Identifying 26 local food alliances or food policy councils to convene on best practices to combat hunger in local communities;
- Increasing average daily breakfast participation statewide by 8.4 percent and total breakfast participation by 3.6 percent;
- Providing more than 2.8 million congregate meals at senior centers and more than 6.1 million home delivered meals;
- Distributing $500,000 in mini-grants to expand alternative breakfast models in schools;
- Improving redemption rates for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program by launching a mobile application to help eligible Pennsylvanians find fresh, locally grown produce at participating farmers markets;
- Combating stigma by rebranding SNAP marketing materials for seniors and redesigning the SNAP EBT card so people are not intimidated to redeem their benefits; and
- Fighting federal proposals to cut SNAP eligibility to low-income elderly, children and working families.
“If we want to build strong communities and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, then we must invest in people, and this means supporting programs like SNAP so we do not put unsustainable strain on our charitable food networks and force more people to go hungry,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “We will continue to make progress towards the Blueprint’s goals, and we will do everything we can to support access to fresh, healthy foods and fight chronic hunger in communities around Pennsylvania.”
For more information on the Governor’s Food Security Partnership and food assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
–J.J. Abbott, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania