House-passed Budget Plan Includes Dramatic Increases in Food Assistance Programs
HARRISBURG, Pa. (June 7, 2022) --- Recognizing the epidemic that hunger has become across the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week passed a draft spending plan that includes dramatic increases in the state’s food assistance programs.
Under the House’s proposed budget, funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) would increase by more than $4 million to $24.1 million. Funding for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) would nearly double, from $4.5 million to $7.5 million.
SFPP remains a lifeline for food banks across Pennsylvania, helping all 67 counties purchase and distribute food to low-income families and seniors. PASS redirects millions of pounds of Pennsylvania-grown agricultural products that might otherwise go to waste to organizations that provide nutritious meals.
For the first time ever, the budget would provide $1 million to the Senior Food Box Program.
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania is the single largest provider of meals to older Pennsylvanians through the program, which is administered on behalf of the Department of Agriculture through a network of food banks serving all 67 counties. Eligible seniors can choose to receive their monthly box via pick up, drive-through, or delivery from a program partner, including senior apartment complexes, senior community centers, and food pantries, or even DoorDash.
“There isn’t a single county in Pennsylvania without a family experiencing food insecurity,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “Hunger is something that knows no boundaries, no political affiliation. It’s a growing problem that demands a response of equal ambition, and this budget proposal does that.
“I am hopeful the governor and Senate will agree with the need and ensure these resources end up in any final budget compromise,” she said.
The House spending plan also would keep $500,000 to support the cost of distributing The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) commodities to counties, as well as the $1 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Development Program.
In Pennsylvania, nearly 1 in 10 residents faces food insecurity. One in 8 children are food insecure. Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens qualify for the state’s meal delivery program but don’t receive that aid because of financial constraints.
The budget blueprint was developed by House Democrats and passed on a party-line vote, 102-101, on Monday evening. The plan would increase spending by almost $1.4 billion above what Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed in March. The governor’s plan held the line on both SFPP and PASS, while proposing a $16 million investment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to address food insecurity among seniors and people with disabilities.
Passage of the House measure is among the first steps in crafting a spending plan. The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate. The administration and General Assembly have until June 30 to work out a final budget before the state’s fiscal year ends.
“We recognize that negotiations are ongoing, and we understand that everyone at the negotiating table has different policy priorities,” Christopher said. “But we hope everyone can find consensus in making sure Pennsylvania does all it can to fight hunger and ensure its most vulnerable residents have access to healthy, nutritious food.”
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MEDIA CONTACTS: Sheila Christopher, Executive Director
P: 412-290-3045| E: email@example.com
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About Hunger-Free Pennsylvania:
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania comprises a network of food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, charities and other hunger relief organizations working together to end hunger in Pennsylvania. The network has 18 members serving all 67 counties. Learn more about Hunger-Free Pennsylvania online: www.hungerfreepa.org, or via Facebook: www.facebook.com/HungerFreePA.