Kinkead: 2 million Pennsylvanians face ‘hunger cliff’

Calls for expansion of state food programs, universal free school meals

HARRISBURG, Feb. 27 – State Rep. Emily Kinkead, D-Allegheny, called for increasing outreach and expanding public food resources at a legislative lunch and learn hosted by the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition at the state Capitol today.

“Inflating food prices over the past year, coupled with the end of federal pandemic programs, will be devastating for many low-income families in the Commonwealth,” said Kinkead. “Whether it’s connecting people to community food banks or state programs like the Senior Food Box, we need to do more to ensure food insecure Pennsylvanians can pay their grocery bills and access adequate nutrition.”

According to the PHAC, more than 300,000 Pennsylvania seniors are eligible for the existing Pennsylvania Senior Food Box, but only about 35,000 are enrolled to receive it this year. Kinkead said spreading awareness about the underutilized program could be one way to provide relief to the many Pennsylvanians heading toward a “hunger cliff.”

Kinkead emphasized more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are enrolled in SNAP and that beneficiary households are expected to receive about $180 less per month, expressing concern that existing programs and resources may be overwhelmed by the increased demand.

“Hunger doesn’t always look like a person holding a cardboard sign; it often looks like a parent working full-time on minimum wage or a young student becoming disruptive in class because they aren’t getting proper sustenance. None of these scenarios should exist in the wealthiest nation on earth, but they do, and we need to do better.”

Kinkead said she strongly believes that creating a universal free school meals program for Pennsylvania students is fundamental to combatting hunger in the state. She introduced legislation with State Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, last year that proposes using about .007% of the previous state budget to guarantee students at public schools receive breakfast and lunch every school day of the year.

In recent weeks, Kinkead was named House co-chair of the Legislative Hunger Caucus for the 2023-24 legislative session and said she is looking forward to working with co-chair State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence, and other members of the caucus to reduce food insecurity in Pennsylvania.

Photos from today’s event are available here.