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.
Since early spring, Feeding Pennsylvania, and the rest of the Feeding America network of 200 banks, has been at the frontlines of providing food assistance to help our neighbors weather unimaginable conditions: the largest U.S. public health crisis in a century, staggering unemployment numbers, and a 50-year high for grocery prices. As we continue serving Pennsylvania, we are also anticipating a major challenge that will make it harder to ensure no one goes hungry: a steep downtick in food.
Nationally, USDA food purchases of US grown food makes up around 30 percent of all food distributed by the Feeding America network of food banks and partner pantries and meal programs. This nutritious food helps our food banks provide families and individuals with enough to eat. USDA food is expected to decline by 50 percent next year. At the same time, the Feeding America network is experiencing a sustained 60 percent increase in demand for food, as the pandemic and economic downturn continue with no end in sight.
Less food plus more need: this is an equation that translates to more people being turned away from food banks without the help they need. This devastating outcome can be avoided if the federal government revisits this cut to the amount of necessary and nutritious food we receive.
Every year, the USDA helps to move billions of pounds of healthy food from farmers to food banks to families – helping to ensure produce, dairy, and other pantry staples don’t go to waste and, instead, fuel students for school and help cash-strapped seniors keep their plates full. However, under current policy, USDA will scale back food support for food banks, spelling disaster for the ability of Feeding Pennsylvania and our member food banks to help our neighbors facing dire circumstances.
There are few easy answers for decisionmakers as they try to get us through this public health and economic emergency – but the problem facing Feeding Pennsylvania is unique in that the answer is right in front of us. During a time of historic need, and when buying food is more expensive, the USDA has a critical opportunity to ensure food banks do not witness a dramatic decline in the food needed to support the thousands of people we serve. Fewer parents choosing between keeping the lights on and buying groceries, fewer single mothers skipping meals, and more of our neighbors getting back on their feet is riding on whether our government seizes the opportunity.
Food banks are doing everything possible to continue to meet the challenge, but we can’t do it alone. We urge Congress and USDA to prevent this cut in the amount of food provided to food banks to ensure everyone has enough to eat now and beyond.