Senator Brubaker: State Food Purchase Program Reaches Important Milestones

The State Food Purchase Program is the nation’s largest state-funded initiative dedicated to meeting the nutritional needs of families at risk for hunger and food insecurity. Members of the bipartisan Hunger Caucus recently joined anti-hunger advocates and charitable food organizations to celebrate two important milestones for the program -- the 30th anniversary of its creation and the 20th anniversary of being permanently adopted by the General Assembly.

Created in 1983, the State Food Purchase Program provides grants for counties to purchase food at wholesale prices to be distributed to needy families through nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations and charitable food organizations in their local community. Eligible recipients are individuals in households that are currently receiving unemployment compensation, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, cash assistance or medical assistance, as well as households with income at or below 150 percent of the poverty level. The program also includes guidelines to ensure any food purchased and distributed to recipients is sufficient to fulfill their nutritional needs.

In recent years, food banks and pantries have seen demand for services skyrocket due to the recession and slow economic recovery. The program plays a critical role in supporting charitable food efforts in communities in every corner of the state. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the program served more than 1.3 million needy state residents during the 2010-11 Fiscal Year. Lancaster County alone benefited from more than $437,000 in total food purchased for local food banks, pantries and other charitable food organizations as a result of the State Food Purchase Program.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the nation that funds its own emergency food assistance program. While the State Food Purchase Program has been a tremendous success in helping families in need, a great deal of work remains to reduce the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in the Commonwealth. As Chairman of the Hunger Caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues to search for additional ways to reduce the threat of hunger and food insecurity in communities throughout the state.

New Dental Health Program Available to Children in Lancaster County

Good oral health is an important factor in the overall welfare of young people, but high costs may force some families to forgo some dental services for their children. A new program created by St. Joseph Health Ministries allows many Lancaster County families to access free dental care for children who have not started school.

Children’s Dental Services of Columbia is now offering free dental exams, cleanings and some restorative work for children who live in Lancaster County and have not yet been enrolled in kindergarten. To be eligible for the program, children must live in a household that meets income eligibility criteria, be on Medical Assistance or be uninsured for dental services.

The new service will be offered in addition to the “Brush. Brush. Smile!” program that offers free dental services for economically disadvantaged children in Lancaster County through the use of two mobile clinics.

For more information on this program or to schedule an appointment, local residents may call St. Joseph Health Ministries at (717) 617-7997 or visit www.sjhm.org and click on the Children’s Dental Services of Columbia link.

For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania residents, please visit www.senatorbrubaker.com.