Annual Food Security Summit Focuses on College Hunger
Governor Wolf’s Annual Pennsylvania Food Security Summit was held recently in Harrisburg to update stakeholders, advocates, and federal partners about Pennsylvania’s progress with the Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA to address food insecurity and discuss work to combat hunger around Pennsylvania.
Presentations regarding hunger in Pennsylvania were shared by the departments of Aging; Human Services; Health; Education; Agriculture; and Community and Economic Development.
This year’s summit highlighted hunger on campus. Deacon Alicia Anderson of Lutheran Student Community / Lutheran Campus Ministry at Penn State joined LAMPa staff at the summit, where she connected with Penn State students working to fight hunger.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about efforts in Pennsylvania to deal with food insecurity, especially among college students,” Anderson said. “I had a chance to connect with some Penn State students who are engaged in projects to help provide food and other assistance on campus. These kind of partnerships are so valuable.”
LAMPa hopes that the network of ELCA Lutheran Campus Ministries in Pennsylvania might become engaged in helping to shape policy in this area as the First Lady focuses attention on hunger among college students.
More than 1.53 million Pennsylvanians experience chronic hunger every day, including 478,500 older Pennsylvanians and about 437,000 children. Since hunger and health are deeply connected, the effects of chronic hunger are profound, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Adequate access to healthy meals is also critical to child development and success in education so kids can focus in school and lead healthier, more productive lives.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, helping 1.8 million Pennsylvanians keep food on their tables. Programs like SNAP and charitable food networks around the commonwealth help working adults, people with disabilities, older adults, and children access food and expand their purchasing power so they do not have to choose between paying for rent or being able to eat dinner.
The Governor’s Food Security Partnership includes the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Health, and Human Services. Since the Governor’s Food Security Partnership released Setting the Table: A Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA in 2016, the Partnership and charitable food partners have made significant impacts in our communities in the past three years. The role of charitable food organizations played an essential role in improving access to local food resources and increasing awareness of food insecurity.
In the past year, the Wolf administration moved toward a Hunger-Free Pennsylvania by:
• Supporting partnerships with 14 employment and training providers and continuing to establish new partnerships in order to meet a goal of expanding to 30 SNAP 50/50 training sites by end of year;
• Assisting more than 400,000 elderly or disabled individuals currently receiving benefits due to the Elderly/Disabled Simplified Application Project (ESAP) resulting in a 10 percent increase in eligible seniors receiving SNAP benefits;
• Identifying 26 local food alliances or food policy councils to convene on best practices to combat hunger in local communities;
• Increasing average daily breakfast participation statewide by 8.4 percent and total breakfast participation by 3.6 percent;
• Providing more than 2.8 million congregate meals at senior centers and more than 6.1 million home delivered meals;
• Distributing $500,000 in mini-grants to expand alternative breakfast models in schools;
• Improving redemption rates for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program by launching a mobile application to help eligible Pennsylvanians find fresh, locally grown produce at participating farmers markets;
• Combating stigma by rebranding SNAP marketing materials for seniors and redesigning the SNAP EBT card so people are not intimidated to redeem their benefits; and
• Fighting federal proposals to cut SNAP eligibility to low-income elderly, children and working families.
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