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Human Services Secretary Touts Importance of Food Assistance Programs

by PA Department of Human Services

Sep 10, 2019
Healthy & Fresh Foods

Bristol, PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller visited Fresh Connect, a free farmers’ market at Bucks County Community College bringing reliable, fresh food to the nearly 50,000 people experiencing food insecurity during the Wolf Administration’s Hunger Action Month tour to highlight charitable food networks and supports provided in communities across Pennsylvania.

“More than 1.5 million people around Pennsylvania experience food insecurity and may not know where they will get their next meal,” said Secretary Teresa Miller. “For too many people, food insecurity is their daily reality. We must do our part to ensure access to food assistance programs are available for our neighbors, so we can eliminate the growing hunger gaps across Pennsylvania.”

September is National Hunger Action Month. In Pennsylvania, approximately 1.53 million Pennsylvanians experience chronic hunger and food insecurity every day. Food insecurity means not having access to reliable and nutritious meals. Since hunger and health are deeply connected, the effects of inadequate food are profound. Those effects include increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased healthcare costs. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and charitable food networks around the commonwealth help working adults, people with disabilities, older adults, and children access food and expand their purchasing power so they do not have to choose between paying for a doctor’s appointment or being able to eat dinner.

Fresh Connect Bucks County is held weekly, providing reliable and needed food to 50,000 Bucks County residents facing hunger, 34 percent of whom are children. Fresh Connect is a collaboration of the Bucks County Opportunity Council, Philabundance, Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, and St. Mary Medical Center, and the United Way of Bucks County. Fresh Connect Bucks County also offers nutritional recipes for the common ingredients provided at the market distribution.  

“We are honored to have Secretary Miller visit our Fresh Connect distribution during Hunger Action Month to highlight local organizations working together to feed their communities,” said Heather Foor, Food Program Manager at Bucks County Opportunity Council. “Today we served nearly 200 households this week by providing families with healthy, nutritious food that is necessary for their health and well-being.”

“Hunger happens in every county, 365 days each year. Programs like Fresh Connect help keep families healthy and fed,” said Kate Scully from Philabundance. Philabundance is Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization. For 35 years, it has focused on providing emergency food to those in need. Philabundance serves more than 90,000 people each week, 30 percent of whom are children, 16 percent of whom are seniors, and other clients include college students, single parents and the working class.

Charitable food networks around the commonwealth do important work every day to help Pennsylvanians experiencing hunger, but they cannot end food insecurity alone. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program serving 1.8 million Pennsylvanians. The combination of charity and government assistance programs are necessary to help bridge the meal gap. Without both resources, more people would have to choose between basic needs and keeping food on the table.

In addition to SNAP helping keep food on the table and curve health care costs, SNAP helps local economies. In May 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a study on the influence of SNAP redemptions on the economy and county-level employment in the time leading up to, during, and after the Great Recession. This study found that SNAP redemptions could have a greater economic stimulus impact than many other forms of government spending per dollar spent, especially during a recession, because they are paid directly to low-income individuals. For instance, the grocery subsidies deliver food directly to tables along with a financial return into rural supermarkets and small businesses in those communities.

There are over 10,000 authorized retailers that participate in SNAP across Pennsylvania. These retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits in 2018 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. SNAP also provides support for programs like SNAP 50/50, where non-profit organizations leverage their funding with matched funds from the federal government to provide career-specific skills training for people receiving SNAP benefits.

“SNAP is not just the nation’s most important anti-hunger program – it helps support local farmers and small businesses and grow economies around the country. If proposed federal changes to the SNAP program take effect, the impacts will be felt well beyond just SNAP recipients,” said Secretary Miller. “Food assistance is a simple investment in the public good for all of us. We must lift up the stories of the many Pennsylvanians for whom food assistance programs like SNAP and the help from charitable food organizations is invaluable and protect and preserve these life-saving resources.”

For more information on Fresh Connect Market, visit www.BCOC.org.

For more information on Hunger Action Month related events, contact the DHS Press Office.

For more information on food assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov  

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