Shapiro Administration Highlights Governor’s Proposed Budget Investments To Support Food Access For Older Pennsylvanians And People With Disabilities, Reduce Health Disparities Across Pennsylvania

Proposed $16 million investment would increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit for older Pennsylvanians and people with disabilities by over 50 percent and would be the first ever direct investment of state dollars in Pennsylvania’s SNAP benefit. 

Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh visited The Factory Ministries (or “The Food Hub”) in Lancaster to highlight new investments in Governor Josh Shapiro’s 2024-25 proposed budget to support Pennsylvanians facing hunger. 

The Food Hub is a location of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Food Farmacy program that supports access to life-sustaining food for people navigating both health issues and food insecurity. 

The Governor’s proposal includes what would be the first investment of state funds to increase the minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit for older adults and people with disabilities, while also aiming to boost programs that help Pennsylvania’s kids during the summer months.

“As a physician, I have seen first-hand how food can be medicine, especially for people navigating or at risk of chronic health conditions that are impacted by diet. If people are going without meals or if nutritious food is inaccessible due to cost, there is a direct negative impact to their health, including higher health costs and avoidable hospitalizations,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget seeks to invest in the health and dignity of our older adults, people with disabilities, and our youngest Pennsylvanians, by increasing the minimum SNAP benefit and helping provide meals to students during their summer break.”

Older individuals and people with disabilities are more likely to experience chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure that are worsened by poor nutrition, leading to worse health outcomes and higher health care spending. Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget includes an investment of state funds to expand this critical lifeline for some of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. 

The proposed $16 million would increase the minimum monthly benefit for older Pennsylvanians and people with disabilities by over 50 percent from $23 to $35 a month. If passed, this would be the first ever direct investment of state dollars in Pennsylvania and could help more than 100,000 individuals cover the rising costs of groceries.

In addition, the budget allocates $3 million in state funds to make it a little easier for Pennsylvania parents during the summer. Free or reduced-priced meals during the school year provide critical nutrition to students and help them learn. But, during the summer months, these same students often experience food insecurity. 

This year, Pennsylvania opted in to the new Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, also known as SUN Bucks or Summer EBT. This federal program allows states to offer a nutrition benefit that functions like SNAP during the summer months to families who receive free or reduced priced meals during the school year. An estimated 1.2 million children in Pennsylvania will qualify for this new program which is paid for by federal funds. The proposed funds outlined in the budget would assist with operational needs for the program.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Food Farmacy program is an award-winning community benefit initiative that exemplifies innovation. The program integrates access to healthy food and nutrition education into a care plan for food-insecure patients with nutrition-related conditions like metabolic syndrome and prediabetes. The program includes a LG Health registered dietitian to meet with patients at participating food pantries to provide them with nutrition counseling as they shop for healthy food for them and their families. The program has demonstrated a significant improvement in health outcomes for low-income patients who have difficulty affording sufficient healthy food.

“The Food Farmacy represents an important part of our mission to create a healthier Lancaster County. Diet is one of the most important factors in protecting against preventable chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” says Ashley Lundy, director of LG Health’s Community Health and Wellness. “We know that the nutrition-counseling services along with healthy food provided by this program help patients learn how to implement and improve their overall diet, health and lifestyle.”

Learn more about and apply for SNAP and additional DHS resources for individuals with low-incomes.


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