Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Market Development Cheryl Cook today joined the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Feeding Pennsylvania to urge Pennsylvanians to support their local food banks following the partial federal government shutdown.
Every day, families turn to their local food banks to help meet their unmet food needs. The partial government shutdown strained resources at food banks as they worked to assist furloughed workers. This large influx of demand resulted in many food banks struggling to keep up with the growing need of resources.
“Millions of Pennsylvanians continue to feel the ramifications of the partial federal government shutdown,” said Secretary Miller. “Disruption in pay and changes to the SNAP benefits schedule are challenging families facing food insecurity, and all of us can play a role in supporting our neighbors as they navigate this difficult time.”
Even though the federal government is back to business as usual, many of the impacted families are still left wondering where their next meal will come from. Whether they are federal contract employees that are unsure if they will receive back pay, or one of the 1.8 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants in Pennsylvania, charitable food organizations will likely continue to face an increased demand to help meet this need.
In order to issue February benefits during the shutdown, DHS had to issue February SNAP benefits early, on January 16 and 17, rather than the typical issue date within the first ten business days of the month. March benefits will be issued from March 1-14, which forces SNAP recipients to make the February benefit last nearly two months.
Following the early benefit payment, DHS received calls from SNAP recipients asking about rumors that benefits had to be spent by the end of January or they would expire. This was not true, but SNAP spending over January shows that the early payments were spent very quickly, and SNAP recipients may soon run out of funds for February.
Secretary Miller and Deputy Secretary Cook urged all Pennsylvanians to continue to support their local charitable food organization as they prepare for what could be a continued and dramatic increase in need.
“Pennsylvania’s charitable food system is built on the notion that food connects us, sustains us, and is something that everyone – no matter who they are or where they live – deserves access to,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Cook. “It is important that we band together during this challenging time to support our friends and neighbors struggling to put food on their tables. I applaud the work our commonwealth’s food banks do each day, and I encourage all Pennsylvanians to take the time to contribute in any way they can.”
Pennsylvanians looking to help their local charitable food organizations can do so by making food and monetary donations. Most-needed food items are often listed on an individual food bank’s website. Additional in-person volunteer support will also be needed as charitable food organizations work to keep up with the increased pace.
“We do expect the later part of February to be very busy as SNAP benefits run out and clients seek more food assistance from our Partner Agencies,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “With that in mind, we ask that friends of the Food Bank consider an extra monetary donation in February.”
Arthur also expressed concern that the current federal government funding resolution is set to expire on February 15.
“We ask our leaders in Washington D.C. to work tirelessly to avoid another shutdown that would again harm federal and contractor workers and families, and possibly create an even larger SNAP crisis that might overwhelm food banks and pantries, and leave families hungry,” said Arthur.
“Feeding Pennsylvania’s member food banks have worked overtime to serve the needs of those impacted by the government shutdown as well as the needs of the 1.6 million Pennsylvanians facing hunger every day. We are grateful for the donors and volunteers that make our work possible, but we know that SNAP is the backbone of the charitable food response,” said Feeding Pennsylvania Jane Clements-Smith. “For every one meal our food banks provide, SNAP provides 12, making it difficult to nearly impossible for us to meet the needs when benefits are interrupted. We urge congress to keep the government open and ensure that essential nutrition programs continue to work for families and businesses in PA.”
Find a charitable food organization in your community here.