FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Feb. 6, 2024) — Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed 2024-25 General Fund budget would increase funding by $3 million for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) while holding the line on both the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the newer Senior Food Box Program funding.
Recognizing how important these programs are in the fight against hunger, the governor’s budget for the first time presents each program separately as its own line item within the appropriation for the state Department of Agriculture. Previously, the three programs were lumped into one appropriation.
Still, food banks in many cases are facing demand and utilization rates higher than during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, while costs continue to rise, making stagnant SFPP funding difficult to absorb.
SFPP remains 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 access federal food commodities and finance transportation and infrastructure improvements. The budget would hold the line on SFPP at $20.188 million, even though food insecurity is on the rise and the cost of food outpaces overall inflation.
“SFPP remains the foundation of our anti-hunger programs,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania. “If that foundation weakens, then the whole system really is in jeopardy, and right now state funding isn’t keeping up with the pressures SFPP is facing.”
In a mixed bag of funding, however, 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. The draft spending plan would increase PASS funding from $5.5 million to $8.5 million.
“By investing more in PASS, we are able to grow our network of farmers and food processors who provide healthy meals and deliver even more Pennsylvania-based food to those who need it most,” Feeding Pennsylvania CEO Julie Bancroft said.
The Senior Food Box Program will receive $1 million to help with deliveries. Funded for the first time last fiscal year, the program has been widely successful, delivering nutritious food packages to low-income older Pennsylvanians. Food insecurity among seniors contributes to malnutrition, which exacerbates disease, increases disability, decreases resistance to infection, and extends hospital stays.
More than 40,225 seniors benefit from the program, but 520,988 seniors are eligible. Each month, an average of 7,684 seniors has their box delivered.
Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and Feeding Pennsylvania are seeking $23 million for SFPP, and support for the appropriations of $8.5 million for PASS and $1 million for senior food boxes in the state’s 2024-25 fiscal year budget.
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Sheila Christopher, Executive Director
P: 412-290-3045| E: email@example.com
Julie Bancroft, CEO
P: 717-724-3182 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org