You may have noticed that we haven’t sent out a Friday email for the past two Fridays and today isn’t Friday. As an organization that strives to build a community where people have the food they need to lead healthy lives, we know that we cannot work to end hunger without also working to end racism. Over the past weeks, we have taken the time to listen to our Black team members, have conversations as an organization, and start a conversation with our Board of Directors about racism internally and externally. Through these initial conversations we’ve created a Black Lives Matter statement and the beginning of an action plan. We don’t have this all figured out. To see our statement, initial steps, and hold us accountable for our ongoing work, you can visit our website.
It is no surprise that COVID-19 is resulting in an increase in food insecurity across the country and in our region and that it is disproportionately impacting black communities. In 2018 food insecurity for Philadelphia was at 16.3%. Feeding America estimates that it will grow to 21.2% in 2020 due to COVID-19. The surrounding counties are also expected to see an increase of around 5%.
This week we worked in the following ways to address food insecurity across the region . . .
Over the past weeks our SNAP Hotline Team reduced our lead list to 0! Since March 16 we have created 2,436 new leads, called back each person on the list, left lots of voicemails, and completed 974 pre-screenings and 893 SNAP applications. We continue to operate our SNAP Hotline at 215-430-0556, Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the Advocacy and Policy front, we are happy to share a few positive updates:
DHS announced last week that the SNAP online purchasing pilot has gone live! On June 3 and 4, online purchasing became available at the 25 ShopRite stores in Pennsylvania; all Walmart stores across Pennsylvania; and, to all Amazon Pennsylvania customers. In addition, USDA has approved Fresh Grocer in Philadelphia to participate in the Online Purchasing Pilot. Fresh Grocer has to complete some additional steps before online purchases can begin.
A few caveats about the SNAP online purchasing pilot: SNAP benefits cannot pay for delivery or other fees. You can sign here to support a bill introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (S. 3563) to directly reimburse vendors for grocery delivery costs to SNAP shoppers. Also, some retailers will waive delivery fees if minimum order requirements are met. Lastly, delivery availability may be limited in some areas. Shoppers should check with individual retailers for details.
Distribution of P-EBT Benefits, a resource provided to households with students who are eligible but lost access to free and reduced-price meals, has begun. For families that receive SNAP benefits, P-EBT funds were loaded to their SNAP card at the end of May into early June. The next phase of mailing P-EBT cards to eligible students has also begun. This process will occur in phases and should be complete by the end of June.
If a family needs to report a problem with P-EBT, the state has set up an online form. Families should click where it (somewhat confusingly) says "start an application," fill in the required information, and explain the problem.
DHS received approval from FNS to issue SNAP “Emergency Allotments” (EAs) for June. Families that do not receive the maximum SNAP benefit will receive supplemental funds in the second half of the month. You can see the schedule on our EA fact sheet for June.
Now that the school year has officially ended, summer meals distributions have started! Because of COVID-related challenges, getting full information (such as service days and times) for all sites in our 5-county region has been a bit more challenging than in past years. We should have our summer meals map ready by next week. In the meantime, City of Philadelphia affiliated summer meals sites can be found on the city food distribution website and Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese sites in the region can be found here.
In our work to support Food Pantry and Soup Kitchens, we’ve worked with our VIP (Victory In Partnership) partners to connect them with additional food resources through the Food Rescue Program. Since May, we've connected 646 households with the food they need through our Food Rescue Program.
Please note that we will be closed on Friday, June 19 in recognition of Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865 Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which became official on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.