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  • Writer's pictureHunger-Free Pennsylvania

State’s Food Banks More Than Doubled Food Distribution in 2020


State’s Food Banks More Than Doubled Food Distribution in 2020

Statewide network distributed 262 million pounds of food last year compared to 118 million pounds in the year prior to the pandemic

HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 13, 2021) --- Pennsylvania’s two leading anti-hunger organizations today reported that its statewide network of regional food banks distributed more than 262 million pounds of food over a 52-week period last year to meet the surging demand among individuals and families who were affected by the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.

By comparison, that annual total more than doubled the 118 million pounds of food the network distributed during the same period in 2019. The organizations also handed out 12.4 million boxes with nutritious food staples in 2020 compared to 5.5 million last year.

“And that surge has not slowed,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “Through the first few months of this year, many of our food banks are still serving record numbers of individuals.”

That trend won’t change anytime soon, Christopher said. More Pennsylvanians are turning to their local food banks for help --- some for the first time. The total number of people served totaled 29.6 million in 2020 compared to 13.3 million in 2019. (These numbers reflect total visits, meaning more people are relying on food banks for sustained assistance rather than stopgap, temporary aid.)

Even as the economy reopens, many seeking help now are low-income residents who aren’t necessarily going back to the same jobs or same level of income they had before.

“In normal times, when far too many families are challenged by hunger, our statewide charitable food network is a lifeline,” said Feeding Pennsylvania Executive Director Jane Clements-Smith. “The pandemic only underscored how important these services are to Pennsylvanians in need.”

Both organizations are seeking an increase in the governor’s 2021-22 General Fund budget for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), two of the state’s most critical anti-hunger programs for purchasing and distributing food to low-income families and seniors. The proposed budget includes level funding of $18.188 million for SFPP and a $1 million increase to $2.5 million for PASS.

Christopher and Clements-Smith contend that food banks simply cannot go back to pre-pandemic funding levels. Far too many Pennsylvanians remain challenged by hunger. Demand is up almost 10 percent for food assistance so far in 2021, while the food supply has decreased by more than 30 percent since fall 2020.

Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania are seeking $24 million for SFPP and $5 million for PASS in the state’s 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

More than two-thirds (69.1%) of Pennsylvania voters support increased state funding for the state’s charitable food network, including those who identify as Republican (54.8%), Democrat (81.9%) and Independent (66.7%), according to results of a statewide public opinion poll conducted by G. Terry Madonna Opinion Research earlier this year.

During the height of the pandemic, both SFPP and PASS received extra funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, with SFPP getting a $15 million boost on top of the $18.2 million appropriated by the state and PASS receiving another $10 million on top of the original $1.5 allocated in the state budget.

SFPP is 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 finance transportation and infrastructure improvements to meet increasing demands while also accessing federal food commodities.

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.

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MEDIA CONTACTS: Jane Clements-Smith, Executive Director

Feeding Pennsylvania

P: 570-867-3044 | E:

Sheila Christopher, Executive Director

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

P: 724-941-1472 | E:

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About Feeding Pennsylvania:

Feeding Pennsylvania is a collaborative effort of nine Feeding America-affiliated food banks in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The mission of Feeding Pennsylvania is to promote and aid our member food banks in securing food and other resources to reduce hunger and food insecurity in our communities and across Pennsylvania and to provide a shared voice on the issues of hunger and food access within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information about Feeding Pennsylvania, please visit, connect with us on Facebook at, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @FeedingPA.

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:, or via Facebook:


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