Human Services Secretary Participates in SNAP Challenge to Highlight Food Insecurity
Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller announced that from September 24-28, she will take the SNAP Challenge to highlight Hunger Action Month, the importance of food access, and the prevalence of food insecurity across Pennsylvania. The week will also highlight the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps nearly two million Pennsylvanians access fresh, healthy foods.
“More than 1.5 million people around Pennsylvania do not know where they will get their next meal. For these people, food insecurity is their daily reality, but SNAP helps working adults, people with disabilities, older adults, and children access fresh, healthy foods and expands their purchasing power so they do not have to choose between paying for a doctor’s appointment or replacing an old pair of shoes and being able to eat dinner,” said Miller. “SNAP is a lifeline for many Pennsylvanians, and it is my hope that taking this challenge can help lift up the stories of the many Pennsylvanians for whom SNAP is invaluable.”
Secretary Miller launched the week by joining the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank for a celebrity chef event to prepare meals for Pennsylvanians experiencing homelessness at the food bank’s Health Food Hub. Throughout the week, Secretary Miller will explore some of the obstacles people may experience when obtaining food, as well as some initiatives in place to help overcome them. Other events throughout the week include: poverty simulation, an exercise designed to help participants gain an understanding of situations faced by people living in poverty; highlighting how farmers markets make fresh, healthy foods more available to SNAP recipients and how SNAP supports Pennsylvania’s farmers and small businesses; highlighting how employers can support employees in economically fragile situations; and discussing the federal Farm Bill and how proposed changes to SNAP could affect Pennsylvanians.
In September 2016, Setting the Table: Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA was developed to address hunger in PA and respond to Governor Wolf’s executive order establishing the Governor’s Food Security Partnership. The partnership includes the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Health, and Human Services.
It is estimated in Pennsylvania, that 1.58 million Pennsylvanians live in poverty, and 173,000 of those are seniors. Food insecurity can also have a profound effect on children. Low-income children are more likely to be food insecure, and food insecurity in households with children is associated with inadequate intake of several important nutrients, which can lead to deficits in cognitive development, behavioral problems, and poor health.
Since the release of the Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA, the Wolf administration has completed key steps in reducing food insecurity by:
• Allowing eligible individuals easier access to benefits through the Elderly/Disabled Simplified Application Project category to ease their renewal process;
• Establishing school breakfast program mini-grants for school districts to implement alternative breakfast models;
• Increasing access to SNAP for community college students;
• Providing access to five employment and training programs for SNAP participants;
• Developing the myCOMPASS PA mobile app allowing individuals access to their benefits anytime and anywhere;
• Increasing knowledge of summer food programs by mailing postcards about the programs to all SNAP recipient households with children;
• Expanding access to healthy foods with 160 Healthy Corner Stores throughout the state;
• Distributing more than five million pounds of food to more than 850,000 low-income households through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System;
• Educating individuals and families on necessary nutrition for a healthy life.