Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that the Department of Agriculture has received approval to continue operating the Disaster Household Distribution program, through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), to provide food to Pennsylvanians adversely affected by COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Originally approved by the USDA on March 27, the Disaster Household Distribution program, set to expire the end of May, has been approved through June 25.
The waiver eliminates the need for individuals to verify financial eligibility upon arrival at a food bank or pantry. Those in need of food through June 25 simply need to show up and receive their food. In addition to removing barriers for Pennsylvanians to access food, the waiver allows the Department of Agriculture and its partners to distribute USDA Foods – including meats, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, cereal, rice, pasta, eggs, milk, and more – to those in need.
The department estimates that in 2020, the Bureau of Food Assistance will move more than $80 million of USDA foods through Pennsylvania’s charitable food system in all 67 counties, with the state’s allocation of TEFAP funding from USDA. In 2019, nearly $50 million was allocated to the purchase of USDA Foods. The additional allocation for 2020 comes through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, in addition to an increase in funding through continued trade mitigation efforts by USDA.
In addition to accessing these USDA Foods and foods procured by the food bank, Pennsylvanians are now able to access fresh, local foods through the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Food banks around the state have begun to hold events to distribute fresh products from USDA-approved distributors, including 17 Pennsylvania-based contractors providing milk and other dairy products, pork, chicken, and fresh produce. Pennsylvanians interested in receiving a box through the Farmers to Families Food Box program should contact their local food bank for distribution information.