Feeding Pennsylvania promotes and aids our member food banks in securing food and other resources to reduce hunger and food insecurity in their communities and across Pennsylvania.
August is “Produce Month” in Pennsylvania – a month-long celebration of locally grown vegetables sponsored by the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program. This event is the perfect opportunity to recognize the millions of dollars that the agriculture industry brings to our economy each year and acknowledge the statewide accessibility of fresh, nutritious Pennsylvania produce – especially for those who need it most.
On average, Feeding Pennsylvania’s food banks serve nearly 2.2 million individuals annually, yet during the first three months of our COVID-19 response, our food banks served more than 5.5 million people. With these staggering statistics and more than 52,000 farms spanning over 7.3 million acres across the state, there is no reason anyone should be denied access to this healthy, nutritious food. During PA Produce Month and throughout the year, Feeding Pennsylvania works with our member food banks to promote and increase accessibility to over 2,700 partner agencies and pantries.
Check out the list below to learn more about how Feeding Pennsylvania supports PA Produce throughout the year to help reduce hunger and food insecurity across the state.
How Feeding Pennsylvania supports PA Produce all year long!
In an effort to support farmers and Pennsylvania families in need, the PA Department of Agriculture created the Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System (PASS) — an innovative program for accessing healthy and nutritious surplus food produced by Pennsylvania farmers. PASS provides funding to cover the costs associated with harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting surplus products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, poultry, pork, beef, and grains in order to donate those items to the charitable food system.
Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative (MARC) works with farmers across the state every day. As the regional produce distribution system for Feeding America food banks, the MARC provides solutions to farmers by offering an outlet for surplus produce, as well as distributing that excess to food banks throughout the region. This partnership enables food banks to receive anywhere from 5-10 different commodities per load—enhancing the variety and value to their clients and allowing food banks a more dependable and efficient supply.
In addition to their typical operations, the MARC was provided a grant opportunity through Feeding America in the early stages of the pandemic to start a program to pack mixed, fresh produce boxes for our member food banks to help with the COVID-19 response. With much success to this program, the MARC was awarded a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture CFAP Farmers to Families program to expand our capacity to reach even more families in need.
PA Healthy Pantry Initiative
Through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the PA Healthy Pantry Initiative works to increase the accessibility and promotion of healthy, nutritious food and beverage options—like fresh produce— to pantries across the state. Feeding Pennsylvania’s registered dietitian collaborates with our member food banks regularly to provide nutrition education through healthy food tastings, demonstrations, recipes, classes, etc. In addition, the initiative offers several resources to pantry clients and pantry coordinators such as healthy tips and ideas for preparing foods, information on using fruits and vegetables, information on various nutrition topics as well as connections to additional resources and recipes.
PA Eats Partnership
In 2019, PA Eats and Feeding Pennsylvania noticed a crucial need for educational resources to teach pantry clients how to create nourishing meals with the food they receive. Coinciding with the PA Healthy Pantry Initiative, we formed a partnership to produce nutrition education videos with volunteer chefs, using food commonly offered at our pantries – providing the perfect opportunity to combine our platforms to help fight hunger and promote agricultural growth in our state.
The video series, Nourish PA, features Pennsylvania chefs and food professionals demonstrating how to make healthy, simple and affordable recipes that teach basic cooking skills using fresh, healthy ingredients. In addition, PA Eats launched the Nourish PA for Kids series featuring family-friendly recipes that school-aged children can prepare for themselves, with minimal knife work and no need to turn on the stove or oven.
Help Feeding Pennsylvania celebrate Produce Month this August!
Throughout this month, Feeding Pennsylvania will be celebrating PA Produce by spotlighting PASS and MARC vendors, highlighting our programs, and providing healthy, simple and affordable recipes that highlight PA produce! Stay tuned for posts throughout the month by following along on our social media and signing up for our e-newsletter!