Gov. Tom Wolf today presented his proposed 2019-20 spending plan for Pennsylvania --- the first budget as part of his final four-year term in office. The blueprint avoids broad-based tax increases while boosting spending to about $34.1 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The proposal holds the line on funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP), one of Pennsylvania’s most critical anti-hunger programs.
The state Department of Agriculture’s budget proposes $19.688 for SFPP, the same level as last year. That total includes $1.5 million for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), which redirects millions of pounds of Pennsylvania-grown fruits and vegetables to nutritious family meals.
Let’s be clear about one thing: The Wolf administration has been steadfast in its consistent support of anti-hunger efforts --- through the combined efforts of state agency partners in the Governor’s Food Security Partnership, and through implementation of “A Blueprint for a Hunger-free PA.”
But let’s be honest, too: Even with these advances, hunger still affects far too many residents, meaning millions of working families, children, and seniors don’t have access to healthy, nutritious meals.
Hunger remains an epidemic in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3 million residents turned to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families last year. One in seven residents remains at risk of going hungry.
That’s why Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and its members, as well as hundreds of supporting organizations statewide that signed on to a letter sent recently to the administration, are urging the state to appropriate $21 million for SFPP and $3 million for PASS.
This is an issue that knows no political boundaries. There isn’t a single community or legislative district in Pennsylvania that isn’t affected, which is why Pennsylvania needs a statewide effort to address hunger and food insecurity.
SFPP is a lifeline for our food banks. The program provides cash grants to all 67 counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income individuals, including seniors. The program also helps food banks finance transportation and infrastructure improvements while accessing federal food commodities.
The governor’s budget proposal is the first step in a months-long process. In between now and the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, advocates like you need to be sure your voices are heard. Tell the administration and lawmakers: Increase funding for SFPP and PASS.
We’re grateful to the governor for his continued support and look forward to working with both the administration and entire General Assembly to ensure hungry families in Pennsylvania have access to the resources they need.
The fact is that a relatively minor increase in investments in these programs will make a bold statement that emphasizes government’s recognition of the negative impact of food insecurity and its commitment to easing the harm of hunger.