Fighting Hunger with the One-Two Punch
Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather may not have delivered as many punches as audiences had hoped for, but this year the General Assembly at least can deliver a huge “one-two punch” in the fight against hunger.
First, hit ‘em with the jab --- a $21 million appropriation for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).
Over the past three decades. SFPP has become Pennsylvania’s most significant source of support for the commonwealth’s food banks, food pantries and other providers of nutritional assistance. Despite a 24 percent increase in food costs and a 23 percent increase in the number of Pennsylvanians eligible for SFPP, the commonwealth’s financial commitment to SFPP has decreased by 7percent. A $21 million appropriation for SFPP would deliver a huge punch in the gut to hunger in Pennsylvania.
Second, hit ‘em with the cross --- a $3 million appropriation for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).
PASS was established in 2010 following unanimous passage in both the state House and Senate. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture concluded in a feasibility study that, “PASS could serve as a model program to be implemented nationwide; tailored to the excess market commodity and needs of state food pantries.” An appropriation of $3 million would yield 10 to 20 million pounds of fresh produce for the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians struggling with hunger. Moreover, the commonwealth’s agricultural industry would reap economic benefits resulting from increased commerce and the substantial reduction of agricultural waste.
These programs are not just a short-term fix for hungry families; they are an investment in Pennsylvania’s future.
Hungry children are nearly 3 times more likely to suffer from poor health, twice as likely to repeat a grade in school, and twice as likely to require special education. Likewise, adults who experienced huger as children are ill-prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically for the work environment, leading to greater absenteeism and turnover. Helping the 564,440 food insecure children is a big step in ensuring the next generation of Pennsylvanians will be well-educated and productive members of the workforce.
In the same respect, 14.8 percent of all Pennsylvania seniors are food insecure, with more than 171,000 older adults living in poverty. Since 2001, there has been over an 85% level of growth in senior hunger nationally. For seniors, poor nutrition impedes their ability to effectively recover from illnesses, limits intake of essential vitamins, reduces efficacy of prescription drugs and exacerbates problems from pre-existing health conditions. Seniors at risk of hunger are 1.6 times more likely to have heart failure, 1.5 times more likely to be diabetic, 2 times more likely to be in poor health and 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
Today, 61 percent of families have to choose between buying food and paying their rent, and another 53 percent have to choose between food and medical costs. These are not the choices families should have to make.
Let’s take Pennsylvania families out of the ring for good. Let’s fight hunger with a “one-two punch” by appropriating $21 million for SFPP and $3 million for PASS today.