LETTER: Food banks are essential to many Pa. families
In normal times, when far too many families are challenged by hunger, our statewide charitable food network is a lifeline. The pandemic only underscored how important these services are to Pennsylvanians in need (March 11, “Food Bank Had to Ramp Up, Change Strategies in Response to COVID-19”).
Since the start of the pandemic through the end of the year, more than 600,000 additional Pennsylvanians turned to their local food banks for help — some for the first time.
That surge has not slowed. Through the first two months of the year, many of our food banks are still serving record numbers of individuals. Demand is up almost 10% for food assistance so far in 2021, while the food supply has decreased by more than 30% since fall 2020.
That trend won’t change anytime soon. Many seeking help are low-income residents who aren’t necessarily going back to the same jobs or same level of income they had before.
Our food banks can’t go back to pre-pandemic funding levels, either. But that’s largely what the state’s proposed 2021-22 budget would do with the State Food Purchase Program and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System — two of the state’s most critical anti-hunger programs for purchasing and distributing food to low-income families and seniors.
We’re grateful for the added support the commonwealth provided to food banks during the height of the pandemic. But demand is still raging across the state. Increased funding for SFPP and PASS is essential to ensure we continue to meet this incredible need among our most vulnerable residents.
SHEILA CHRISTOPHER Executive Director Hunger-Free Pennsylvania Canonsburg
First Published March 21, 2021, 12:00am