Fighting Food Waste: Pennsylvania’s Push to Ensure Access to Nutritious Food

First Lady Lori Shapiro, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding Volunteer At Philadelphia Food RescueCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

PHILADELPHIA, PA — First Lady Lori Shapiro and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined forces with Sharing Excess, a food rescue operation at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, to tackle food waste and improve food security. On Thursday, they packed boxes of fresh produce alongside Evan Ehlers, Founder and Executive Director of Sharing Excess.

Sharing Excess has been addressing the critical issue of food waste since 2018. The organization has rescued 41 million pounds of food, diverting it from landfills and distributing it to those in need. They connect restaurants with surplus food to hunger-relief organizations, supported by a dedicated network of volunteers and college interns. Their central hub, the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, serves as a crucial link between farmers and communities, ensuring that no healthy food goes to waste.

“We cannot accept that 20% of Philadelphians lack access to healthy food. Josh and I are committed to changing this by investing in food security across the Commonwealth,” said First Lady Lori Shapiro. “Our budget proposes $22 million to grow the minimum SNAP benefits, provide meals for school children, and invest in our local farmers.”

This proposed budget aims to address the multifaceted challenge of food insecurity. Increasing SNAP benefits and providing meals for schoolchildren are essential steps to ensure that vulnerable populations have consistent access to nutritious food. Investing in local farmers is also crucial, as it not only supports the agricultural economy but also helps to build a sustainable food system.

Secretary Redding highlighted the role of Pennsylvania farmers in nourishing communities. “For generations, Pennsylvania farmers have nourished our communities by donating their surplus through the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market,” said Redding. “Food has the power to nourish families, strengthen communities, and provide sustainable income. From the Pennsylvania Food Policy Council to the investments we’re making at all levels of the agriculture and food industry – from education to innovation to economic development – we are continuing the legacy of our farmers and ensuring a healthy, robust, and sustainable future for our Commonwealth.”

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The visit to the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market underscores a growing movement where government, non-profits, and passionate individuals collaborate to fight food waste and ensure everyone has access to nutritious food.

Established in December 2022, the Pennsylvania Food Policy Council plays a pivotal role in this movement. The Council’s 2023 Annual Report outlines strategies to enhance local and regional food systems and support inclusive economic growth. Dawn Plummer, Director of the Pennsylvania Food Policy Council, emphasized the importance of this collaborative approach.

“The fight against hunger in Pennsylvania isn’t just about having less,” said Plummer. “As Sharing Excess demonstrates, Pennsylvania boasts incredible agricultural bounty and surplus grown by our generous farmers. I am proud to lead a Council that brings together a diversity of perspectives to address these complex yet solvable food system challenges. By connecting over 1.2 million Pennsylvanians facing food insecurity – including one in eight of our children – with innovative food distribution networks, we can ensure everyone has access to the abundance Pennsylvania produces.”

This collective effort highlights the power of collaboration in addressing food insecurity. By leveraging resources and fostering partnerships, Pennsylvania aims to create a sustainable and equitable food system, ensuring that everyone has access to the nutritious food they need to thrive.

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