The Central PA Food Bank has come up with some innovative ways to work with its partners to distribute even more food to those in need.

“We continue to see an increase in demand and expect that to continue in the coming months. We are committed to providing crisis response boxes until at least Sept. 30, in recognition of the growing economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis,” a news release from the food bank reads.

Here are more of the innovative ways the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is working to feed those in need in our communities:

-- Since March, we have distributed about 12 million pounds of food to hundreds of partner agencies in our 27 counties.

-- The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is like a wholesale distributor of charitable food. Our work provides our network of nearly 1,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, churches, and community organizations with what they need to feed their communities.

-- Since mid-March, volunteers have given thousands of hours to pack 120,000 crisis response boxes.

-- In April, we served nearly 175,000 people across our 27 counties and distributed more than 44 percent more food than we did during April 2019.

-- Our agency partners are settling into the new system of food distribution. They have become very creative and efficient in getting food to families in need, while practicing social distancing.

-- Keeping up with the increase in demand while navigating the disruptions in the food supply chain has been the greatest challenge. But with any challenge, there is an opportunity for innovation. Last week, we began distributing meals from Operation BBQ Relief. The organization turns donated food that comes in restaurant-size packaging into family-friendly frozen meals for charitable distribution. Each frozen container has a complete ready-to-eat meal including healthy protein, vegetables, and another side dish for a family of four. The meals go easily from the freezer to the oven to the dinner table.

-- The Food Bank has a long-standing wonderful partnership with the agriculture community. With so many people facing food insecurity, it is heartbreaking to see the news stories of milk being dumped or vegetables being turned over in the fields. The Food Bank has signed on to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture program to rescue that food and get it to people in need.

-- Through the USDA’s Farmers to Families program, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank will work with several local farmers including Lancaster Farm Fresh, a co-op of local farmers in and around Lancaster County, and Brian Campbell Farms in Bloomsburg to get fresh fruits, vegetables, pork, chicken, dairy products, and eggs to the people we serve. The USDA buys the food from farms then pays a distributor to put it together into neatly packaged boxes to be delivered to our partner agencies for distribution.

-- Pennsylvania was awarded $255,373, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to Food Bank Program. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will distribute to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to reimburse farmers for costs associated with harvesting, packing, processing, and distributing donated agricultural surplus. The funding will pay for 200,000 pounds of cheese that will be distributed to food banks statewide.

-- The Farm to Food Bank program was created in the 2018 federal Farm Bill - based on legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Casey and championed by Congressman Glenn Thompson - and was modeled after the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS). Pennsylvania’s funds are equitably distributed through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and their 13 subcontractors to procure surplus agricultural products from Pennsylvania farmers and food processors, The department's $1.5 million Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System serves as a match for the federal Farm to Food Bank Program.

For more information on the Central PA Food Bank, or to contribute to its mission to feed those in need, visit: www.centralpafoodbank.org.

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