In the News

PENNSYLVANIA ORGANIZATION STANDS UP TO SUPPORT COMMUNITIES STRUGGLING WITH FOOD INSECURITY DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network launches new website to provide resources to PA residents in need during COVID-19 pandemic

Harrisburg, PA, Jun 18, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The impact of the coronavirus has led to record-breaking unemployment, economic disruption, and food insecurity for more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians since late May 2020. The Department of Human Services estimates that 1.8 million PA residents currently participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Over 695,000 of those participants are children. Helping families obtain resources during a time in which these children were not receiving school lunches became a real concern.

Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network (PA NEN) launched a new website, www.BeHealthyPA.org, as a part of a statewide initiative to provide additional resources and nutrition education to the low-income residents of Pennsylvania.

As a Pennsylvania SNAP-Ed partner, PA NEN understands the importance of providing SNAP households with nutrition assistance resources.  Once COVID-19 became a reality, the team gathered information from across the state with assistance from other Pennsylvania SNAP-Ed partners and shared them on their website.  Currently, Pennsylvania has approximately 19 partners that cover over half of Pennsylvania’s counties. 

Serina Gaston, M.Ed., CHES, Executive Director, has been instrumental in leading the organization in a new direction that not only provides resources so that families in Pennsylvania do not go to bed hungry, but are given the opportunity to learn more about making healthy choices. Gaston states, “From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we wanted to provide low-income families with information on food access and distribution.  As schools were closing, we knew there would be Pennsylvania youth unable to access school lunches and unaware of where to go to obtain food and we wanted our website to be a resource and assist in those efforts.”

Launching the “Be Healthy PA” campaign in 2020 supports the mission of the organization to provide education for residents to empower them to easily make healthy lifestyle choices.

The campaign’s simple but catchy tag line is “Healthy Food! Healthy Moves! Healthy You!”

The website offers a recipe database with a robust search engine capability allowing users to search “What’s in the fridge?” for easy, healthy recipes. During COVID-19, food availability and access have greatly impacted many families, so this feature allows individuals to be creative with foods they have on-hand or from a food pantry to dish up quick recipes that everyone in their family can enjoy.  The site offers a Resource Map connecting participants to Food Banks and Food Pantries in their community.  

The website is an integral piece of the Be Healthy PA campaign that participants will begin seeing Summer of 2020 that includes digital and social media advertisements throughout the state encouraging residents that with PA NEN’s support, making the healthy choice can be the easy choice.  

The Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network promotes communication among individuals and organizations engaged in improving nutrition in our communities. They work to ensure that effective, evidence-based, appropriate nutrition resources primarily for low-income populations are available across the state.

Karima Rose, ED.M. is passionate about providing education to residents to help them make good healthy choices.  Ms. Rose states, “In a world where systems and resources aren’t equitably provided, I applaud PA NEN for its forward-thinking of launching a website that provides a central place for individuals to locate available nutrition resources for their families.”

To learn more about the Be Healthy PA program powered by PA NEN contact visit the website at www.behealthypa.org.

Visit Be Healthy PA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/behealthypa.

PA NEN can be reached at (717) 233-1791.

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the PA Department of Human Services (DHS). This institution is an equal opportunity provider. View the full nondiscrimination statement here.

To schedule media interviews or questions please contact Marcia Perry Dix of Perry Media Group at 717-220-1060 or marcia@pmg.media.

Contact: Marcia Perry Perry Media Group Marcia@pmg.media717-220-1060

Online Grocery Purchasing for SNAP Recipients Now Available, Retailers Encouraged to Join Program Online Grocery Purchasing for SNAP Recipients Now Available, Retailers Encouraged to Join Program 

June 2020 – The Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced that the system changes necessary to implement the pilot program that lets recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchase groceries online through participating retailers have been completed, and online grocery purchasing is now active at approved retailers.

“SNAP recipients in Pennsylvania have not had the flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or for prepayment of curbside pick-up, potentially putting their health and safety at risk during this health crisis. We are proud to announce that that changes today. We are glad to launch this pilot program to allow us to expand flexibility to SNAP recipients looking to utilize online grocery purchasing to support social distancing and COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “No one should be in the position of jeopardizing their health to get groceries for their family. I encourage retailers across the commonwealth to reach out to Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and join this program.”

The pilot program currently includes three approved retailers: Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite. Only eligible food items normally paid for by SNAP will be able to be purchased from these retailers online with SNAP benefits; delivery fees, driver tips, and other associated charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits. Due to the expedited timeframe to implement, this initiative does not include the ability to transact Cash Assistance benefits using the EBT card.  Therefore, individuals will need to use another method of payment, such as a pre-paid debit card, to cover non-allowable fees.

A fourth retailer, The Fresh Grocer, was approved by the federal government to participate in the program, and once necessary system changes are implemented, they too will begin accepting online SNAP payments. Retailers that are interested in participating must contact FNS to review the requirements to be added to the program.

Retailers that do not wish to join the pilot program can still offer delivery or pick-up flexibility options for SNAP recipients by using mobile EBT processing equipment that would allow customers to pay with SNAP when groceries are delivered or picked up. Farmers markets may be able to receive this processing equipment at no cost through a grant opportunity provided by DHS.

DHS is continuing to process applications for SNAP and encourages people and families who need assistance to apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us. All SNAP applications are screened for expedited services criteria which can accelerate processing time for those with emergency needs. Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family can also find and contact their local food bank or pantry through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to access food resources in their community  Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19