Potential SNAP Cuts Create Uncertainty For Food Banks
Philabundance announces a 26 percent increase in agency need over the last year
Philadelphia, Pa.- November 22, 2011– Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, and its network of agencies saw 26 percent more people coming to them for food over the last year compared to a 22 percent increase in need from 2009 to 2010, according to a survey Philabundance conducted with members of its agency network. Philabundance is working closely with corporate partners, foundations, the agency network and through its direct service programs to meet the mounting need.
A high unemployment rate of 8.1 percent in October, rising food prices and higher utility bills during the winter months are making it harder for people to provide food for their families. More than 10 percent of households in the Philabundance’s nine county service area received SNAP benefits at some point in 2010, which translates to a 56.3 percent increase since 2006, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Any SNAP cuts will negatively impact the 900,000 people struggling to put food on the table in the Delaware Valley at a time when the need is growing. Senior citizens, which represent 31.2 percent and children which represent 51 percent of SNAP households will be hurt the most by pending SNAP cuts.
“This is the time of year when most of us get caught up thinking of the holidays and the meals we will share with family and friends,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “But the reality is there are neighbors in our communities right now who are struggling to figure out how they will provide meals for their families this holiday season. As cold temperatures approach, some families are faced with paying their heating bill or paying the grocery bill. It’s really tough times out there and with the potential SNAP cuts things will get even more difficult.”
Philabundance works with a network of nearly 500 member agencies that consist of food cupboards, shelters and emergency kitchens across nine counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. With the help of these agencies, Philabundance is able to provide food to 65,000 people each week across the Delaware Valley. Philabundance is focused on helping their network of agencies secure more resources in order to help them meet the mounting need they face. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently awarded Philabundance a $1 million grant that includes $100,000 to help agencies expand their ability to store and distribute a higher volume of perishable food items.
In the last year, anti-hunger efforts have been bolstered through the efforts of partners like Walmart, with their donation of a refrigerated truck, and Bottom Dollar with a grant that provides equipment for safe handling and cold chain management of highly nutritious, perishable food collected through the Grocers Against Hunger (GAH) program. This program makes it possible for Philabundance to get desirable perishable foods into the hands of neighbors who need them most. It’s an innovative initiative that enables participating grocers to donate food to those in need without having to pay the costs to clear out inventory. The GAH program has the great potential to grow and has the ability to bring in millions of more pounds of food for Philabundance and its agencies. ACME, the largest contributor to GAH, will donate a 24 foot refrigerated truck, enabling Philabundance to pick up more food from partnering grocers.
Philabundance is also supporting the hunger relief system by putting direct service programs in areas where there is limited access to a reliable source of food and a lack of agencies. Through the Fresh For All program, those in need have reliable access to fresh produce for no cost which helps neighbors stretch their resources. Like a traveling farmers market, Fresh For All travels to 12 sites across the Delaware Valley getting fruits and vegetables into the hands of those who need it most. Philabundance’s Community Kitchen is an adult culinary arts vocational training program that supplies critically needed meals to agencies and area emergency kitchens serving people in need. Emergency Boxes are 30lb boxes made up of shelf stable food that is provided to people with an emergency food situation that do not have access to other food assistance. The box supplies a family of 4 with 3 meals a day for approximately 3 days. Philabundance’s Food Help Line, 800-319-Food (3663) is a resource that connects those in need of food assistance with an agency near them.
Another program is Philabundance’s Community Food Center, a choice style food pantry that promotes dignity and respect for neighbors in the North Philadelphia section of the city. It just celebrated its second year serving the community on November 17th and is now serving even more families. In 2011, the Community Food Center served more than 1,500 families comprised of nearly 5,000 individuals, 38 percent of the individuals are children and 10 percent are seniors.
Philabundance is working to establish innovative programs that have a systemic approach to helping those in need. The latest project Philabundance is working on is a community food center that is proposed for the City of Chester in Delaware County. The proposed food center will bring better access to affordable nutritious food staples to a community who has been without a grocery store for over a decade. The food center will provide residents with a nonprofit retail shopping experience and offer shoppers the best possible prices to help them stretch their resources.