Pa. funds food bank ag surplus system

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Central Pa. Food Bank bowl
2016 Commemorative Central Pa. Food Bank bowl by Mud Queen Pottery

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A program to put food grown by Pennsylvania farmers into the charitable food system that was established six years ago — but never funded — will finally get off the ground thanks to first-ever funding through the 2015-16 state budget.

$1 million allocation

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced April 12 the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank as the winning bidder to implement the program, known as the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System. The commonwealth’s final budget makes $1 million available to implement the program statewide.

“There is healthy and nutritious food available in the fields that never makes it into the food supply,” Redding said, “and we want to see it put onto the plates of people who need it. I’ve often said that you cannot have a charitable food system without a food system that is charitable. This program makes it easier for more of the state’s producers to contribute to the cause.”

About the program

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, or PASS, was created in 2010 following a 2008 pilot program in southcentral Pennsylvania.

Under the pilot program, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank was able to acquire 128,740 pounds of Pennsylvania-grown surplus apples with a retail value of $188,604 for an actual cost of only $41,180, or about 32 cents per pound. The apples were then packed in three-pound bags that were distributed among the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s 27-county service region.

In February of this year, the department issued a competitive request for proposals to implement PASS. The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank was the winning bidder.

With the funding appropriated through the state’s 2015-16 budget, the food bank and the state’s charitable feeding organizations will secure a variety of surplus agricultural products produced in Pennsylvania. Producers, packers and processors participating in PASS may be reimbursed for costs involved in harvesting, processing and/or packaging, and transporting donated product.

“We view the PASS Program as a win-win-win situation: a win for Pennsylvania agriculture, a win for local food sourcing, and a win for Pennsylvanians in need that will receive this healthy bounty,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

Want to be involved?

As part of the PASS implementation process, the department is developing a database of producers who want to be considered as sources of product for the program. This database will include farmers who offer products such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, beef, pork and poultry.

Pennsylvania producers interested in participating in PASS can contact the department’s Bureau of Food Distribution at 800-468-2433.

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