Helping Harvest Food Bank, along with Senator Judy Schwank, spoke to a group of local elected officials and community leaders at Weaver’s Orchard near Morgantown Thursday morning to advocate for an increase in funding in this year’s state budget for the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS).
The PASS program connects farms with nonprofits and provides a way for Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry to donate safe, wholesome food products while being reimbursed for the costs involved in harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting these foods, which would likely otherwise be left to rot in the field, be plowed under, be dumped, or be landfilled.
Senator Schwank spoke on the importance of increased funding for the PASS program, which benefits both Pennsylvania agricultural producers as well as the food assistance network.
“The past program was a part of the state budget. This has been so successful, in fact they’ve run out of money to buy some of that local product that we think is so important for those folks that need food” said Senator Judy Schwank. “They were flat funded in the budget which is about $4 million dollars. We’re actually hoping to double that because this program has been working so well for the commonwealth, and for all of our food banks and food pantries throughout the state.”
Helping Harvest’s President, Jay Worrall, spoke on the significance of the program for state food banks. “We are now experiencing a time where the resources available to meet the nutritional needs of the children, seniors and families that we support is simply not there. We are starting to make choices about, if you come to us an say you need food, we may not be able to serve everyone’s needs. This is a problem that keeps food bankers up at night. But we think the PASS program could change the way food banks operate across the country” said Worrall.
Ed Weaver, owner of Weaver’s Orchard, and a participating vendor in the PASS program, shared how the program benefits the community. “It helps with the labor to get everything harvested, cost of the container, cost of transportation” said Weaver. “It really gives us a good feeling to know that this food is getting to people in need. If I had to distribute that myself, it would be very costly, so I appreciate the system that has been developed.”
Following the event, Weaver offered tours of the orchard’s operations to those in attendance.