WHYY: Pa. attempts to temper panic-buying
State officials are urging Pennsylvanians to be “more measured” in their grocery shopping, as a surge in need, combined with panic-buying, puts pressure on emergency food programs.
“The unnecessary panic-buying, emptying of shelves, is causing serious supply chain challenges for the retail stores, our regional food banks and the local food pantries,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding at a briefing on Tuesday. “There is no food shortage.”
But Redding said there is an increasing number of Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance. Though the state doesn’t have exact numbers, it clocked an additional 240,000 applications for unemployment compensation last week, along with a 23% increase in applications through COMPASS, an online service that connects Pennsylvania’s with SNAP benefits.
“An increasing number of Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance, for themselves and their families, are depending on the Charitable Food Assistance Network across Pennsylvania,” Redding said. “As a result, there is not enough food at the ready for regional food banks to easily ramp up and serve the rapidly increasing need.”
Officials say that they’re working to maintain the usual production and distribution chains for grocery stores, emphasizing that panic-buying has had a major impact on available food.
“We produce enough food for everyone,” Redding said. “If everyone returns to normal buying habits, buying only what they need for a week or two, this will allow the stores and the food banks a chance to catch up.”
Despite pressures, officials say they’re continuing to process and accommodate requests for food assistance.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that people who need food assistance and qualify for SNAP can continue to use this vital resource,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller.
Miller says the Department of Human Services will continue to process applications, and urged residents to continue sending in paperwork as usual.
She added that they will ensure that SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits continue even for those who are not able to submit paperwork, complete interviews, or provide verification of information.
Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Emergency SNAP applications can be expedited and issued in five days.
Miller added that the department is also expecting to issue an additional SNAP payment to assist households in complying with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation of maintaining two weeks’ worth of food.
Anyone who needs help accessing food assistance can visit Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.
The state is also asking for healthy Pennsylvanians to volunteer at their local food bank or register for the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Pennsylvania.
Organizations that need volunteers or resources can seek assistance at the United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211 website.
Businesses with resources to help feed and shelter Pennsylvanians in need are being asked to fill out this survey. Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance can complete this survey to help direct resources.