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Demand at Pa.’s Food Banks Keeps Rising


Demand at Pa.’s Food Banks Keeps Rising

State support critical to meeting rising demand

HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 30, 2024) --- Rising food prices and increased demand are straining the state’s charitable food network, with many food banks facing utilization rates that rival those set during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Pennsylvania’s network of food banks served 2,916,168 unique individuals and distributed 22,855,919 pounds of food in March 2024, the third highest amounts in each category since April 2020. By comparison, December 2023 was the fifth highest month for both people served and pounds distributed, demonstrating an increased reliance on food banks.

“Food banks are a lifeline for vulnerable individuals and families, and more and more people are turning to them now in their time of need,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “But the operational challenges our charitable food networks face are just far too great to overcome without additional state support.”

The cost of food has risen 25 percent in the last five years, outpacing overall inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This has strained family budgets, leading to increased demand at food banks. Food inflation also prevents food banks from stretching their dollars to serve more people.

“Pennsylvania has proven programs that can help, but right now funding simply isn’t keeping pace with demand,” Feeding Pennsylvania CEO Julie Bancroft said.

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and Feeding Pennsylvania are seeking $23 million for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), and support for the proposed appropriations of $8.5 million for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) and $1 million for senior food boxes in the state’s 2024-25 fiscal year budget.

The overall increase for these three programs is modest, amounting to only $5 million more than current funding, but the investment would go far in helping food banks. SFPP remains a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania, helping all 67 counties purchase and distribute food to low-income families and seniors.

SFPP also helps food banks access federal food commodities and finance transportation and infrastructure improvements. 2 Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector, farm communities and food insecure residents all benefit from PASS, which redirects millions of pounds of Pennsylvania-grown agricultural products that might otherwise go to waste to organizations that provide nutritious meals.

Funded for the first time last fiscal year, the senior food box program has been widely successful, delivering nutritious food packages to low-income older Pennsylvanians. Food insecurity among seniors contributes to malnutrition, which exacerbates disease, increases disability, decreases resistance to infection, and extends hospital stays.

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MEDIA CONTACTS: Sheila Christopher, Executive Director

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

Julie Bancroft, CEO

Feeding Pennsylvania

P: 717-724-3182 | E:



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