Morning Call (Pennsylvania), July 28, 2008: Opinion: Need is acute, and getting worse, at local food banks

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For the second year in a row, the state budget will quite simply cause hunger for the many folks struggling to meet their household budgets. The recently approved state budget allocates $18 million for the State Food Purchase Program, the same as last year and $750,000 less than the year before. These diminished resources come while demand for food assistance rises, food prices are spiraling upward and donated food from industry sources has become less available to Second Harvest Food Bank and other food banks.

The State Food Purchase Program is Pennsylvania’s most significant contribution to the effort to feed the people who rely on the providers of nutritional assistance. Anti-hunger advocates across the state joined forces to ask the governor and the General Assembly to increase funding to $22 million this year. That increase was the amount the groups determined would be necessary to provide not more food, but the same amount that was available to each hungry individual seeking assistance two years ago.

Locally, Lehigh and Northampton counties will realize an increase of 4.1 percent in funding; that’s the good news. The bad news is that funding to each Pennsylvania county is based on criteria like unemployment and participation in the Food Stamp and Medical Assistance programs. In other words, an increase in funding means that the financial situation of Valley residents has worsened.

Second Harvest has watched its buying power erode. We have increases in important staples like rice (up 72 percent), spaghetti (up 70 percent), canned fruits and vegetables (up 11-22 percent, and peanut butter (up 18 percent).

Even though the state budget increased by 4 percent this year, hungry Pennsylvanians and the people who help them will have to make do with less this coming year. How sad that nothing extra could be spared to ensure that children don’t go to bed hungry.

Ann B. McManus Allentown

The writer is program director at Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast PA. Editor

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