RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 13: A Costco customer stands by his two shopping carts at a Costco store on March 13, 2020 in Richmond, California. Some Americans are stocking up on food, toilet paper, water and other items after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A group made up of Shapiro administration officials and food industry leaders met late last month to start working on developing and implementing strategies to improve food security and accessibility in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Food Policy Council was created by an executive order from former Gov. Tom Wolf in December 2022 in the wake of soaring food prices and the dissolution of pandemic-era nutrition programs.
The council, which includes nine interagency members of the Shapiro administration and a 16-seat advisory group made up of representatives from the food industry, is tasked with working “collaboratively to improve food and nutrition security, public health, environmental sustainability, local food systems, and to reduce food waste,” according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The department’s website stipulates that the council will meet “at least quarterly” but no meeting minutes for the first meeting are currently available online.
In February, Democratic Gov Josh Shapiro appointed Dawn Plummer, the former executive director of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, to serve as director of the statewide policy council.
“There is no goal more important for feeding our future than ensuring that everyone in Pennsylvania has access to healthy, fresh food,” Plummer said.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, data showed that approximately 2 million Pennsylvanians struggled with food insecurity.
Of the 2 million Pennsylvanians facing food insecurity in 2020, 630,000 were children, according to Feeding America data.
The same data showed that, at the time, nearly 1 in 20 Pennsylvanians were “newly food insecure,” meaning they did not have reliable access to adequate, nutritious meals during the pandemic.
Food and energy costs have not been immune to ongoing inflation, which has seen the price of staple ingredients such as eggs, bread, and produce skyrocket even as expanded pandemic-era food benefits ended earlier this year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in April 2023 food prices were 7.7% higher than food prices a year prior in April 2022.
All food prices are expected to increase a total of 6.2% in 2023 with a prediction interval of 4.9 to 7.5%, according to the USDA.
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