Governor Proposes 10.8% Increase for Anti-Hunger Programs
For the second consecutive year, Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a significant increase in the state’s key anti-hunger programs as part of his annual budget address, which he delivered to a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Under the proposed 2016-17 spending plan, funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and associated Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) would increase by 10.8 percent. The SFPP line item would increase by $2 million, from $18.438 million to $20.438 million. (PASS is included within the SFPP line item, which is administered by the state Department of Agriculture.)
The budget process is a long one, but this is a positive first step.
SFPP remains one of the commonwealth’s most important tools in the fight against hunger and a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania. The program provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals, including seniors. For years, the program has suffered from stagnant funding even as need rose dramatically.
The current budget --- which was heavily debated, then partially vetoed and today remains somewhat incomplete --- did succeed in advancing a $1 million increase in funding for SFPP, from $17.438 million to $18.438 million. That $1 million increase was dedicated solely to PASS.
PASS was established unanimously in 2010 as a way to divert millions of pounds of surplus state-grown fruits and vegetables, which otherwise would go to waste each year, to families in need of nutritious meals. The program had never been funded beyond the pilot phase, until last year.
That increase is proof that no matter the differences between the governor and legislature in a prolonged budget debate, they all agree on one thing --- working together to find funding for those in need.
Hunger is an issue that transcends political boundaries.
As for the breakdown of how the $2 million increase in the proposed $20.438 million line item will be apportioned between SFPP and PASS is still being determined. We’ll keep you posted on what we learn.
The budget process is a long one, so we’ll continue to work with the administration and General Assembly to build on their commitment of support.
The need out there is still too great, as hunger remains an epidemic. It affects every community across the commonwealth. That’s why HFPA is advocating for $21 million for SFPP and a separate $5 million line item for PASS.
Like I said, it’s a long process. But this is a good first step.