First Lady Frances Wolf, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and food industry leaders discussed how Pennsylvania’s $10 million Fresh Food Financing Initiative aims to address hunger, food insecurity and food apartheid in the commonwealth while simultaneously increasing market opportunities for Pennsylvania’s agriculture producers.
“The Wolf administration continues to work to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have equal access to fresh, healthy food, because your zip code should not predetermine the quality of food on your dinner table,” said First Lady Frances Wolf. “The Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund is one of the many tools we have to combat food insecurity, and it is an exciting step in our fight for food equity across the state.”
In Pennsylvania, approximately 2.04 million Pennsylvanians experience chronic hunger and food insecurity every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food insecurity means not having access to reliable and nutritious meals. Since hunger and health are deeply connected, the effects of inadequate food are profound, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health and increased health care costs. Chronic hunger also affects cognitive function and our ability to learn and retain information.
The Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund — championed by Congressman Evans and funded through the CARES Act — is available to for-profit, nonprofit or cooperative entities impacted by COVID-19, including grocery stores, corner stores, convenience stores, neighborhood markets, bodegas, food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets, on-farm markets, urban farms and food aggregation centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets.
“Is food available? Is it safe, affordable, nutritious? This is food security. Food insecurity, a food apartheid, is what systemic racism has tragically created for many Pennsylvanians,” said Secretary Redding. “Corner stores in inner cities have candy bars, not fresh produce. I’m pleased that we are able to work to address this apartheid through the Fresh Food Financing Initiative by prioritizing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities and incentivizing retailers to provide fresh, local food. The program is stimulating economies, increasing market opportunities for farmers and improving local health.”