First Lady Frances Wolf joined members of the General Assembly and representatives from the charitable food network today at Mary’s Shelter in Reading to announce an $11.4 million investment in cold storage infrastructure for food banks serving every county of Pennsylvania.
“It is critical that we turn the lessons learned throughout the pandemic into meaningful action that will make a difference in the lives of people in Pennsylvania,” said First Lady Wolf. “This investment will result in a better, stronger, more resilient food system, which translates to a better, stronger, more resilient commonwealth.”
The COVID-19 Food Bank Cold Storage Infrastructure Program, funded by the American Rescue Plan, is a grant program that will allow Pennsylvania’s food banks to purchase, expand, or upgrade cold storage facilities to ensure that they can deliver fresh food to struggling families.
Eligible purchases include refrigerators, coolers, freezers, refrigerator trailers and cargo vans, building expansions, and more. This program will touch all 67 counties and is essential to addressing food insecurity and food waste.
In Berks County, Helping Harvest, which serves Berks and Schuylkill, will receive $1,077,000.
“It’s become very clear over the past year or so that food insecurity is a major problem not just in the commonwealth, but across the nation. The investments the Wolf Administration is making in food banks will bolster our ability to get food into the hands of people who need it the most,” said Senator Judy Schwank. “Additionally, offering a great diversity of nutritious, fresh food products thanks to refrigeration units will greatly benefit the health of Pennsylvanians.”
Governor Tom Wolf has worked to simultaneously support the charitable food system and agriculture industry throughout his administration by continuously investing in programs that connect surplus agricultural foods with families in need and funding projects to decrease food waste. Gov. Wolf first funded the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System Program in 2015 and has since invested more than $20 million to support farmers and families facing food insecurity.
In 2019, the Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant Program was created to address cold storage needs for food banks and reduce waste of fresh food. When COVID-19 came to Pennsylvania in 2020, Gov. Wolf expanded the program and increased funding from $4 million to $9.6 million ensure food needs were met. This Cold Storage Infrastructure Program will work further meet the breadth of needs identified during the review process for the Food Recovery Infrastructure Program.
“Feeding more Pennsylvania families requires increasing capacity for transportation, refrigeration and measures to ensure that food is safe,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “These investments help Pennsylvania agriculture continue to grow, feed our economy and strengthen the charitable food system across the commonwealth.”
“The charitable food network is beyond grateful for this investment in our food banks and our partner agencies like Mary’s Shelter to increase our capacity to store and transport fresh and frozen food,” said Feeding Pennsylvania Chief Executive Officer Jane Clements in Reading today. “We are grateful to the Wolf Administration and Democratic Leadership for recognizing this critical need that will support so many food insecure Pennsylvanians.”
The Cold Storage Infrastructure Grant Program was championed by the House and Senate democrats.
“For many of our neighbors, not knowing when their next meal will be or where it is coming from is a daily struggle,” Rep. Manuel Guzman, D-Berks, said. “As food insecurity continues to affect more and more of our most vulnerable citizens, it is vital to take a proactive approach in combatting this epidemic through initiatives such as ensuring our local food banks are properly equipped and funded. I am proud to see these resources be earmarked for such a worthwhile cause and look forward to exploring avenues to expand funding to all area food banks.”