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State to distribute food to those affected financially by coronavirus, waiving eligibility verification

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The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has received permission to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program, through The Emergency Food Assistance Program, to provide food supplies to Pennsylvanians affected by statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue making the request, and a day later state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding received approval.

“Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation after just two weeks of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. I’m incredibly grateful for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s acknowledgement of our need to feed Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “This waiver lifts a weight off the shoulders of our food banks and families across the commonwealth.”

On Thursday, Wolf sent Secretary Perdue a letter urging him to approve the department’s waiver application that would allow more food to be distributed at hundreds of locations across the state, while temporarily waiving the need to verify household eligibility. Late Friday, the department received approval to use USDA foods as part of a Disaster Household Distribution program being operated through the state’s network of food banks, food pantries, and pop-up distribution sites, according to the governor’s office.

The approval allows the department and its partners to more efficiently distribute a variety of foods — including meats, vegetables, fruit, canned goods, cereal, rice, pasta, eggs, and more — to those most affected by the closure of non-life sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey also urged Perdue to approve the request in a letter to the agriculture secretary.

“USDA’s approval of the request will allow PDA and its partners to more efficiently distribute foods to those most affected by the public health crisis. In these unprecedented times, PDA requires additional flexibilities to not only meet this augmented need, but to protect the health and safety of staff, volunteers and individuals seeking assistance. The Disaster Household Feeding Program will give PDA the funding and the flexibility to serve all Pennsylvanians who walk through a food bank’s doors,” he wrote.