Pennsylvania has received a more than $8.8 million increase in federal funding for food access for low-income seniors through the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Pennsylvania will receive more than 17.6% of $50 million in American Rescue Plan grants the USDA awarded to 47 states to boost each state’s program in 2023 and 2024.
Based on the department’s recent performance, the USDA also increased the number of low-income senior Pennsylvanians the department can serve with Senior Food Boxes. The department will be able to provide an additional 4,000-plus seniors with nutritious food staples through the federally funded program. Pennsylvania received the largest increase among only 11 states receiving performance-based caseload bumps, raising the number of seniors to be served statewide from 36,218 to 40,225.
“No amount of hunger in Pennsylvania is acceptable,” Redding said. “Our proven track record of serving older Pennsylvanians who need our help has earned us more funding to continue to help improve day-to-day quality of life for seniors across the state. The department will continue to be good stewards of state and federal funding and work diligently to ensure that no Pennsylvanian has to worry about where they will get their next meal.”
This boost in funding for the Department of Agriculture comes at a critical time, with more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians – many of them seniors – facing imminent changes to their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility prompted by federal government and Congressional action. Those changes will cause an immediate and significant reduction in monthly food assistance funds beginning March 1, 2023.
According to Feeding America’s most recent report on The State of Senior Hunger in America, five percent of Pennsylvanians age 60 and older were food-insecure, not knowing the source of their next meal. The department’s Bureau of Food Assistance administers federal and state programs and fosters partnerships aimed at increasing food security across Pennsylvania.
The American Rescue Plan funds will allow the department to increase the dollar amount from $24 to $50 for vouchers offered to eligible seniors to redeem for fresh, local foods through the Senior Farmers Market Program. Funding will also enable added convenience for many farm market vendors who accept the vouchers, through embedded QR codes that make deposit easier.
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers are issued from June through the end of September each year by Area Agencies on Aging. Seniors with household incomes below 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible. Specific income levels for 2023 have not yet been established. Vouchers can be redeemed for fresh, healthy, locally produced foods at farm markets statewide, boosting senior health through improved nutrition and the social interaction a farm market outing provides.