Food Banks Rises to Challenges during Pandemic
by Sheila Christopher, Executive Director
Pennsylvania’s statewide network of regional food banks has been lauded during the pandemic for efforts to help struggling families --- and that praise was well deserved.
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania food banks distributed approximately 134 million pounds of food over six months to meet the surging demand among individuals and families who were affected by the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.
Between April and September, Hunger-Free Pennsylvania’s 18 food banks, on average, used approximately 218,000 food boxes to distribute nearly 5 million pounds of food to more than half a million individuals each week, an increase of more than 45 percent over the same six-month period last year.
Many of the individuals who visited drive-thru, walk-thru and pop-up distribution centers in their communities were turning to food banks for the very first time.
Making sure individuals in need had food on their tables never would have been possible without the support of the state, an influx of charitable donations from individuals and companies who wanted to make a difference, and the tireless work of employees and volunteers committee to helping their neighbors.
“From the day COVID-19 knocked on Pennsylvania’s door, we have vowed not to let hunger be our next pandemic,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding told us. “I couldn’t be more grateful to Pennsylvania’s food banks for sustaining life in our commonwealth, for providing certainty for so many during this unparalleled time.”
In June, the state announced $40 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support Pennsylvania’s dairy industry and food security programs, including the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), which covers costs to get agricultural products to the charitable food system, and the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), which since 1983 has been the foundation for Pennsylvania’s food banks and food pantries in the public-private effort to meet the most basic needs of hungry families.
“We are so grateful to the Wolf administration for these critical investments,” said Jane Clements-Smith, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania, a partner in fighting hunger with Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.
The state’s charitable food network has been in overdrive for the last six months, and it continues to meet higher-than-usual demands across the commonwealth. For that, we all remain grateful.