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  • Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

CSFP funded into May despite government shutdown, although effects already being felt

Updated: May 9, 2019



Few Pennsylvanians have probably ever heard of the federally funded Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). It’s one of those programs you don’t really know about until you need it. But in Pennsylvania, 36,200 rely on it and even more need it, as there are more 3,800 seniors on the waiting list at any given time.

CSFP leverages government buying power to provide life-sustaining meal deliveries to older Pennsylvanians --- 100 percent of the participants are low-income seniors, with incomes of less than 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, which is just over $1,300 monthly for a senior citizen living alone. (Half of the people Hunger-Free Pennsylvania serves have a monthly income of less than $800.)

We recently told you about some of the challenges facing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, because of the federal shutdown. The same challenges apply to CSFP … or will, if the standoff doesn’t end soon.

All of these programs are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of the federal agencies that shut down in the border wall dispute. (As many as 14,200 federal workers in Pennsylvania are affected by the shutdown.)

As it stands right now, USDA has purchased and paid for product for the second federal quarter, which runs from January to March, along with the inventory currently housed at the state-based agencies that lead CSFP distribution in their communities.

The “best-case scenario” is that these purchases and the stock are enough to last into May. After that? No one knows.

What we do know is that Hunger-Free Pennsylvania has already had to start dipping into what little reserves we have. Administrative funding ended when the shutdown began in December. A prolonged shutdown could drain our reserves, lead us to miss basic bill payments and force us to stop checks for staff until the standoff ends.

Our biggest concern isn’t ourselves, though, but those we serve.

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania administers CSFP in Pennsylvania, making us the single largest provider of meals to older Pennsylvanians.

We work in partnership with more than 1,200 agencies to deliver 36,200 food packages every month to needy seniors across the state. (More than 375,000 Pennsylvania seniors are actually eligible for CSFP benefits.) Nationwide, CSFP food packages reach more than 725,000 low-income people each month.

These seniors helped to build Pennsylvania and our nation into what it is today. They are called the “greatest generation” for good reason. A prolonged shutdown that takes food from their tables would be an injustice to them and for all they sacrificed.

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