PENNSYLVANIA — Pennsylvania First Lady Lori Shapiro and Second Lady Blayre Holmes Davis in a recent op-ed reminded Pennsylvanians of major federal changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that went into effect earlier this month, and further encouraged anyone who can to donate food or volunteer their time to help fill the gap of need.
On March 1, due to federal legislation, a pandemic response policy that provided additional SNAP funds every month since early 2020 came to an end, affecting more than 1.9 million Pennsylvania SNAP recipients.
Governor Shapiro’s 2023-24 budget proposes a 50% increase in the minimum SNAP benefit, a state investment of $16 million that will help seniors and people with disabilities keep food on their tables. The Governor’s budget also seeks to continue universal school breakfasts, an investment in children’s ability to learn and access to food for working families in all communities.
Read the full op-ed below.
PennLive [OPINION]: Changes to SNAP will require us to help others
By Lori Shapiro & Blayre Holmes Davis, March 26, 2023
Recently, we had the honor of volunteering with the Vetri Community Partnership in Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that provides culinary and nutrition education programs, and with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. We learned about the importance of healthy meals for our physical and mental well-being while we learned to cook, packed bags of fresh produce for seniors living in low-income housing in West Philadelphia and packed meals for local Pittsburgh area students to take home during the weekend.
We saw firsthand how important access to these nutritious meals is for our communities.
The Shapiro-Davis Administration is fighting for families and communities all across Pennsylvania, and that starts with ensuring Pennsylvanians can meet their most basic needs. Joining us in this fight are food banks, food pantries, and other organizations that make up Pennsylvania’s charitable food network. This network strives to address hunger across our Commonwealth every day. Their work helps people meet one of our most basic and essential needs – having enough to eat.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, complements our charitable food network and helps more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians access food by providing money each month for groceries. These SNAP households include seniors, as well as children and people with disabilities; as such, the program’s impact cannot be overstated. SNAP helps people achieve better health by making high-quality, nutritious food affordable and accessible and helps reduce chronic hunger enabling our food banks to preserve resources and serve people in need. Food banks across the Commonwealth have been serving on average more than 581,000 people each week since the pandemic began.
During the past three years, SNAP households received emergency pandemic allotments which increased a household’s SNAP benefit amount to the maximum available amount for their household size. Due to federal legislation, February was the last month the emergency payments were sent. Additionally, that federal action also instituted a cost-of-living increase to Social Security Income but did not proportionally raise eligibility for SNAP benefits. Due to this change, approximately 249,000 senior households will experience a further decrease in their SNAP benefits.
These changes mean that SNAP households are losing a significant part of their monthly food budget. These federal changes could not come at a worse time as inflation and food prices remain high. Further, local grocery stores, farmers markets, and other retailers rely on SNAP driven sales. Pennsylvanians should also know that while SNAP benefits are being reduced, they are not being eliminated. Anyone who already receives SNAP should reach out to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to make certain their information is up to date to ensure they are receiving the maximum SNAP benefit they are entitled to. Anyone who isn’t already receiving benefits, and is struggling to afford food, should reach out to DHS and apply for SNAP assistance.
Gov. Josh Shapiro made it very clear in his budget address earlier this month that it is not okay for any of our neighbors to go to bed hungry or for kids to go all day in school without a meal. That’s why the governor’s inaugural budget proposes giving every Pennsylvania student universal free breakfast, and further plans to boost the minimum SNAP payment by 50 percent for seniors and disabled Pennsylvanians, every month. That is a $16 million state investment in meeting the shortfall caused by changes in this federal program, and it’s an important first step in helping our neighbors.
In addition to supporting the governor’s efforts though his budget, we are asking everyone in the Commonwealth to help their neighbors in need by supporting Pennsylvania’s charitable food network. If you have the means to provide resources, please reach out to Pennsylvania’s charitable food network through Feeding PA. Consider making a small donation to your community’s food bank or contact your nearest food pantry to find out what shelf-stable items they need most. You can also volunteer your time by assisting feeding efforts in your community.
Other organizations in need of volunteer support can be found through the United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211 website. Every contribution of time or resources makes a difference.
Despite these changes to SNAP from the federal government, we know the great people of Pennsylvania can and will step up again because Pennsylvanians are helpers. Like Mister Rogers once said about times of emergency, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Whether you’re from the City of Brotherly Love, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – or anywhere in between – small, individual acts of kindness can and will make a positive difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians who need it most.
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