WPMT FOX43 | News in Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lebanon News, Weather, Sports

Sec. Miller: Administration working to ensure food security needs of all Pennsylvanians

During a conference call Tuesday, Teresa Miller and Russell Redding discussed the rising demands in food amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The Wolf Administration is doing everything it can to ensure that everyone’s food security needs in the commonwealth are met during this uncertain time," Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller said.

“Life has slowed and it has changed, but it has not stopped for the millions of Pennsylvanians who depend on food assistance programs. We know that this pandemic has caused many people and families to find that they are suddenly food insecure and require assistance," Secretary Miller said.

As of March 24th, requests for food and other assistance has gone up 23-percent, Miller said.

And just last week, 240,000 new unemployment claims were filed by Pennsylvanians, according to Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

That means food banks and other local charities will be even more stressed during the Coronavirus crisis as more Pennsylvanians lose their source of income. 

“There is not enough food at the ready for regional food banks to serve the rapidly increasing need," Secretary Redding said.

But for those who are still financially stable, Secretary Redding calls for less panic buying and more responsibility.

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, a sudden loss of smell or taste might be an indicator of COVID-19

RELATED: Wolf Administration reminds Pennsylvanians of food assistance programs, resources and encourages volunteerism

“It will require all of us to be more measured in our food shopping than we have in the last two weeks. The unnecessary panic buying, emptying of shelves is causing serious supply change challenges for local food pantries. There is no food shortage," Secretary Redding said. "We produce enough food for everyone if everyone returns to normal buying habits, buying only enough for a week or two.”

In the meantime, vital services for those who need assistance will remain open. They include SNAP benefits, energy assistance and more. For anyone who misses a deadline on their SNAP benefits during this crisis, your benefits will continue, according to DHS. You can apply for SNAP benefits https://www.compass.state.pa.us/compass.web/Public/CMPHome .

The Pennsylvania emergency Feeding Task Force also is working to identify available resources and provide food and water to communities in need; including ensuring school age children, older adults and others experiencing food insecurity are provided with nourishing meals, according to DHS officials.

At the same time, volunteering is key even in the age of social distancing during the Coronavirus crisis. Anyone healthy and available to volunteer is asked to do so on SERVPA's website or on United Way of Pennsylvania's 211 website.

Businesses who have resources to help and shelter Pennsylvanians during this crisis are asked to fill out this survey for proper direction to services and other sources.

If you are in sudden need of food, you can fill out this survey to be directed to the proper services.

For more information and updates on the Coronavirus crisis, you can head to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website.

SOURCE: Department of Health