The Governor has ordered that all restaurants and bars close their dine-in facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so.
- Some essential businesses such as grocery stores are putting hours in place so vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens, can shop more safely. Please contact local businesses to see if they are organizing these accommodations.
- The PA Department of Agriculture has approval from USDA to waive any requirements that food be consumed on-site at soup kitchens and other congregate feeding sites. At least for the time being, during this period of a State and Federal Declaration of Emergency, meals prepared using government foods at congregate feeding sites can be packaged in to-go containers and sent along with clients. For full guidance, click here. This waiver has been extended until August 31st
- USDA has provided a waiver stating PA may distribute food at hundreds of locations across the state, while temporarily waiving the need to verify household eligibility. This waiver has been extended through June 25th.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that it received waiver approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow schools to provide free meals to all children during statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
- Prior to receiving this waiver, schools that did not meet area-based free or reduced-price meal eligibility requirements were unable to offer free meals community-wide. This waiver eases those requirements and helps ensure all children have access to food. Schools still have a choice whether or not to provide this service.
Food Assistance for Individuals/Families
- The government extended Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) certification periods for six months to prevent SNAP case closures.
- Begun to issue emergency allotments to all SNAP households for March and April 2020, increasing the current monthly allotment.
- County Assistance Offices will continue to process applications for benefits such as SNAP and maintain existing cases.
- https://www.compass.state.pa.us/ is where people can go to apply for benefits.
- Pennsylvania is joining the pilot program that lets recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, purchase groceries online through participating retailers.
- The pilot program currently includes three approved retailers: Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite. Only eligible food items normally paid for by SNAP will be able to be purchased from these retailers online with SNAP benefits; delivery fees, driver tips, and other associated charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits.
- Due to the expedited timeframe to implement, this initiative does not include the ability to transact Cash Assistance benefits using the EBT card. Therefore, individuals will need to use another method of payment, such as a pre-paid debit card, to cover non-allowable fees.
Emergency Food & Shelter Program
The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) National Board has made Phase 37 (FY2019 annual) and Phase CARES (FY2020 CARES Act supplemental) allocations available on the EFSP website, www.efsp.unitedway.org, under the FY2019/2020/CARES Funding Tab. There are separate PDF documents, one for each Phase, listing allocation amounts to qualifying jurisdictions and State Set-Aside (SSA) Committees.
Food Bank and Food Donation Information
Farmers to Families Food Box Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), published Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit organizations seeking to receive food through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Read more about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program FAQs at the AMS website.
- The Central PA Food Bank serves 27 counties in central PA. The agency partners of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank are providing groceries and take-out meals to people in need. Alternative distributions are scheduled at many different locations with significant precautionary procedures in place to protect clients, staff and volunteers. People who are hungry and families that rely on food assistance should still seek help when they need it. Visit the “Find Food” page on www.centralpafoodbank.org to find the closest program or call 717-547-6336 for information.
- Food Connect is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that helps bridge the gap between surplus food and hunger. They work with food vendors to help donate their excess food to local shelters and soup kitchens. See this flyer for information on donating or signing up to receive donations.