PA Raises Income Cap for Food Assistance Programs

More Pennsylvanians struggling to put nutritious food on the table will be eligible to receive food assistance thanks to a newly amended rule that raises the income cap for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP).

The state Department of Agriculture amended the code to raise the SFPP income threshold to 185 percent of the poverty level established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from the previous 150 percent of poverty level. The 2022 USDA poverty level for a family of four is $27,750.

“Many of our congregational food pantries provide food purchased at low cost through the SFPP,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. “These ministries encounter families whose income is too high to be eligible, but who can’t afford the rising cost of food. We’re pleased and grateful that the administration heard and accepted the recommendations of advocates in the charitable food network.”

The state Emergency Food Assistance Advisory Committee, of which LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale is a member, recommended the change in October of 2020.

Increasing the income eligibility threshold for SFPP also allows the Department to administratively raise the Commonwealth’s income eligibility threshold for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Read the text of the rule change.

According to 2019 food insecurity data provided by Feeding America, 10.6% of all Pennsylvania residents  —1,353,730 people — did not always know where their next meal was coming from. That number included 383,500 —or 14.6% — of all children in the Commonwealth. In 2020, as a result of the COVID pandemic, these numbers grew substantially. According to a series of data analysis reports compiled by Feeding America looking at the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity, the number of Pennsylvanians facing food insecurity was estimated to have grown to 13.8% in 2020, an increase of 30%.  Feeding America estimated that the percentage of children in Pennsylvania facing food insecurity rose to 20.4%, an increase of 40% in just 1 year.

Increasing the threshold brings the SFPP into line with the eligibility limits set for several other food assistance programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), reduced-price school breakfasts and school lunches provided through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program within the Commonwealth.

The department does not expect that this final-form rulemaking will have a fiscal impact.

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