FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rep. John Myers
House committee advances Myers surplus food bill
HARRISBURG, Feb. 1 – State Rep. John Myers, D-Phila., today said he's hopeful the House will take swift action when it returns to session next week to consider a bill he's sponsoring that would encourage farmers and food processors to donate excess products to food banks.
The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee last Tuesday voted to send the measure (H.B. 2139) to the full House.
In 2009, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger said 58 percent of community food programs reported that they "generally did not have enough food to distribute to meet their current demand." This increased from 42 percent in 2008. 78 percent said that they had more people coming to their feeding program in the past year compared to the year before.
In response to this shortfall in Philadelphia and in other food aid programs across the Commonwealth, Myers proposed the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System Act.
"For the segment of our population unable to purchase their day-to-day meals, and who depend on the good people at our food banks and pantries and other resources, it is vital that their food intake not depend solely on heavily processed food with large amounts of sodium and sugars, but fresh and frozen produce from the fields of Pennsylvania," Myers said.
Under the bill, the Department of Agriculture would identify in-state farmers, processors and packers willing to donate surplus food and develop a cost-effective mechanism for delivery of those products to maximize freshness. The PASS program would encourage donations through strategies such as reimbursement for services to prepare the goods for transportation and distribution to programs that assist low-income families in meeting their nutritional needs.
The legislation reflects Myers' concern that food aid recipients have access to fresh food that provides adequate vitamins, minerals, fiber and other essentials for a proper diet.
"By providing fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods that otherwise might be discarded, we can help low-income families head off diet-related illnesses and medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure," Myers said. "In the long term, this will have the added benefit of helping to hold down health-care expenditures that can result from a poor diet."
A long-time member of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, Myers has actively promoted initiatives to make more fresh produce available in inner-city markets and has been a supporter of community food pantry, food bank and soup kitchen programs.
"The need for donated food is not going to go down anytime soon, so I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will continue to show the bipartisan support this bill received in committee and will act quickly to approve the bill and advance it to the Senate," Myers added.
The bill is now in the Appropriations Committee for an assessment of any costs of implementation.