HARRISBURG, PA — The Department of Human Services (DHS) Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Doug Jacobs is sharing the effects of food insecurity on health and well-being and the need to continue additional food assistance resources helping protect food security through the public health crisis.
Since March 2020, Pennsylvanians have received more than $100 million each month and more than $1 billion total in federally-funded SNAP funds to help low-income individuals and families because of an authority granted to states with an active disaster declaration.
“Having enough to eat – something very simple that can be easy to take for granted – has profound impacts on the life of an individual. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs,” said Dr. Jacobs. “These emergency allotments are an investment in health and well-being that will help our communities as we look towards our long-term health beyond these public health and economic crises.”
Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies can have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Unemployment and loss of income can strain food security as households try to continue to meet essential needs, and increased unemployment rates can particularly jeopardize food security for lower-income households. As the nation continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
While circumstances around the country are improving, many are still experiencing economic insecurity and struggling to meet essential needs like having enough to eat. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently found in a survey conducted in April 2021 that 17 million adults nationwide said their household did not have enough to eat in the previous week – more than double than in the entire 2019 calendar year. Three in four respondents indicated that they could not afford to purchase more food for themselves and their families. Households with children were more likely to report that they did not have enough to eat.
Pennsylvania has leveraged an authority granted through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to request additional funds through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally-funded food assistance program that helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. For every meal provided by a Feeding Pennsylvania food bank, SNAP provides nine. SNAP funds can only be spent on certain food products like fresh produce and meat, dairy products, and other groceries. While SNAP is intended to be a supplemental program, during a pandemic and historic unemployment, resources are strained, particularly for the lowest-income Pennsylvanians.
Since March 2020, Pennsylvanians have received about $100 million each month and more than $1 billion total in federally funded SNAP funds to help certain low-income individuals and families – about 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s SNAP population. Following a settlement between the United States Department of Agriculture and Community Legal Services, all SNAP households will now begin to receive a regular monthly emergency allotment so long as Pennsylvania’s disaster declaration, which is required to authorize emergency allotments, remains in place. The Biden Administration recently issued guidance indicating that all states will now be able to receive an additional minimum supplement of $95 each month. This new interpretation means that approximately $150 million per month in federally-funded food assistance will be available to support individuals and families in Pennsylvania as well as the grocers, small businesses, and food producers and retailers that accept SNAP, directly benefitting local economies.
This additional assistance each month is helping individuals and families weather the crisis. Feeding America projects that 12 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in Pennsylvania will be food insecure in 2021. Feeding America notes that 2021 projections and overall food insecurity experienced in 2020 was lower than initially projected because of work by federal, state, and local governments as well as work by the charitable food network that has served than an average of 551,700 people around the commonwealth each week.
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