LANCASTER, PA — Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller recently visited the Lancaster County Food Hub during the Wolf Administration’s Hunger Action Month tour to highlight charitable food networks and supports that fight food insecurity 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 health care 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.
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.
Founded in 1947, the Lancaster County Food Hub provide services that honor the dignity of all by striving to meet basic human needs. Over the years, the organization grew and developed into a large social service agency providing food, clothing, shelter and transportation for our neighbors in need. In 2018, the Lancaster County Food Hub distributed over 400 tons of food to nearly 32,000 people.
“The Lancaster County Food Hub’s mission is to be a food resource for the thousands of individuals in our community suffering from food insecurity,” said Gail Rittenhouse, executive director at the Lancaster County Food Hub. “Since the opening of our expanded food hub in 2015, the numbers of people who receive food orders from us has increased significantly. Should the proposed SNAP cuts be passed, we are anticipating an even greater demand for our food distributions and are fully committed to serving everyone needing our help.”
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 more than 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 the Lancaster County Food Hub, visit www.lancasterfoodhub.org.
For more information on food assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
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