Gov. Tom Wolf, Agriculture Secretary discuss food insecurity in Pa.; live updates

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Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding are offering an update on efforts to address food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor and agriculture secretary are holding a news conference.

“Pennsylvania does have plenty of food but we need to make sure Pennsylvanians have plenty of food,” Wolf said.

“No Pennsylvanian should be going hungry,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania remains under a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Wolf administration has shut down many businesses to limit exposures.

You can watch online here.

Wolf said he’d be expediting a grant program so non-profit groups can buy equipment such as freezers to buy more food.

The governor said the state needs to change the way we think about food access. The state is making it easier to find a food bank or get assistance.

The Wolf administration has created a survey to ask residents if they’re having trouble paying for groceries. The survey is aimed to identify areas of high need.

“We want families to get more food,” Wolf said.

The shutdown of businesses in Pennsylvania have battered the economy, just as other states are reeling, too. More than 1.6 million people have filed for unemployment in Pennsylvania.

Before COVID-19, more than 1.5 million Pennsylvania residents experienced chronic hunger on a regular basis, including nearly half a million children, according to the state agriculture department.

The pandemic has led to more insecurity, Redding said.

“A lot of them never have thought they’d be on the receiving end of a food bank,” Redding said.

Some residents may be reluctant to seek help, Redding said. He urged those who need assistance to seek it.

“Please know we want you at this table,” Redding said.

Redding pointed out one key element to helping food banks is to refrain from hoarding at the grocery store. By buying what is necessary, food banks are more likely to be able to buy the essentials to help people in need.

Since the pandemic began and more people have lost jobs, food banks in central Pennsylvania have reported a big spike in demand. Wolf said the state is offering more support to food banks, including directing $ 16 million in state aid. He said the federal COVID-19 relief will offer another $ 16 million in assistance.

The state will adapt to find ways to offer more assistance, with public and private partners.

“Pennsylvanians will not go hungry,” Wolf said.

As coronavirus outbreaks force the temporary closures of some of the nation’s biggest slaughterhouses, some grocery stores are bracing for limited supplies of pork, chicken and beef. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep meat processing plants open.

More than 44,000 people have contracted the virus and nearly 2,200 people have died, according to the state health department.

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