With more than $200 million a month in federal emergency food assistance about to expire in Pennsylvania, advocates invited their lawmakers to learn about the growing rate of food insecurity in the commonwealth and urged them to increase state supports in the face of a looming hunger cliff.

In Pennsylvania, hunger remains an epidemic. More than 1.1 million individuals, including almost 350,000 children, don’t know whether they’ll have enough to eat each day. Lutheran feeding ministries around the state have reported serving almost double the number of families they were a year ago, and nearly three times as many as they were before the pandemic.  With more than $2 billion in annual pandemic-era emergency payments through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ending Feb. 28, they called on lawmakers to step up to help them feed their neighbors who are struggling.

The cut will affect 1.9 million Pennsylvanians. Every household that receives SNAP will lose at least $95 in benefits per month.

“Everyone deserves access to healthy, affordable food.  LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale said at the Capitol press conference with the Pa. Hunger Caucus, which co-sponsored the Legislative Lunch & Learn with the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition (PHAC).  “We are reaching out to you at a pivotal time. As a result of our day-to-day work, we not only know that the food crisis originating with the pandemic is not over, but also that it is about to become worse.”

Robust federal supports made available in recent years that helped millions of families put food on the table are disappearing, including expanded child tax credits that enabled families to afford basics, free school and summer meals for all children, eviction moratoria, farmers-to-families boxes and additional federal  the Emergency Family Assistance Program (TEFAP) funds for food,  greater flexibility in rules to allow federal programs to serve those in need, including the “senior food box” (CSFP), with new partnerships that dramatically increased home delivery of this crucial resource.

The charitable food network is stretching to meet the need, DePasquale said, “but we cannot do it alone. We need the support of the administration and legislature to end hunger in Pennsylvania.”

Advocates are calling on the commonwealth to increase funding for its two major anti-hunger programs — the State Food Purchase Program and the Pa. Agricultural Surplus System. In addition, PHAC is urging the legislature to increase the state supplement to the federal school meals program and to raise the minimum SNAP benefit for seniors to $40 from $23/month.

Lutheran feeding ministries were well represented among the advocates who showed up to visit interactive learning stations with their lawmakers and share a packaged summer meal program lunch.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about hunger and the crisis we are facing in PA,” said Michele Mitchell, LAMPa Policy Council member from Upper Susquehanna Synod. “I was shocked to learn that older adults will face the steepest cliff from the cuts to SNAP benefits which can drop from $281/mo. to $23/month, the current federal minimum.”

“I was grateful for the opportunity to visit with legislators and connect with other advocates,” said the Rev. Carolyn Hetrick of Grace Lutheran Church in State College.  You can read her reflection on the day’s conversations here.


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