Pashinski, Cruz introduce legislation to stretch PA SNAP dollars

H.B. 1275 would establish Pennsylvania Preferred Food Bucks Program

HARRISBURG, April 27 – State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, and Angel Cruz, D-Philadelphia, announced today that they have introduced H.B. 1275, legislation that would establish a Pennsylvania Preferred Food Bucks Program to provide benefit incentives to SNAP participants when they purchase certain healthy foods.

Pashinski and Cruz said the program would promote Pennsylvania’s delicious and nutritious produce by providing a benefit incentive to SNAP participants when they purchase qualifying fruits and vegetables. Specifically, the program would provide a benefit incentive of at least 40 cents to a SNAP participant for every $1 of benefits redeemed for targeted healthy food items at participating markets and retailers, with preference provided to those selling Pennsylvania produced and/or Pennsylvania Preferred products.

“This program would stretch critical SNAP dollars, increase consumption of healthy foods, and help boost demand for products grown and produced across our Commonwealth,” Pashinski said. “The PA Preferred brand is an easy way to know that what you’re buying is of the highest quality and grown or made right here in Pennsylvania. We can get this message to more people and help SNAP customers have confidence in their healthy purchases. Imagine what a difference that kind of surge in demand for healthy and PA produced foods could do for our farmers and our families.”

Pashinski and Cruz are the Democratic chairmen of the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs and House Human Services committees, respectively. While SNAP is federally administered under the United States Department of Agriculture, the PA Department of Human Services is responsible for the program at the state level and the Pennsylvania Preferred program is under the purview of the state Department of Agriculture.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of good health when it comes to preventing severe disease or worse, and good health starts with a healthy diet,” Cruz said. “The PA Preferred Food Bucks Program would help ensure Pennsylvanians -- regardless of income -- have access to more healthy foods and are rewarded for making healthy purchases.”

House Bill 1275 has already garnered the support of a bipartisan group of 15 representatives as well as organizations like The Food Trust, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, a nationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions.

"Food Bucks support a triple bottom line, helping families bring home more nutritious food, supporting Pennsylvania farmers and keeping more food dollars in the community." said Mark Edwards, CEO of The Food Trust.

As the provider of SNAP transaction capacity at numerous Farmers Markets in Allegheny County, Just Harvest also enthusiastically supports passage of H.B. 1275.

"Fresh produce incentives are a win-win-win for families who need access to affordable fresh food, for Pennsylvania's farmers and for taxpayers. Hunger hurts everyone, and this bill is a big step forward against it,” said Ken Regal, the executive director at Just Harvest.

House Bill 1275 has been referred to the House Health Committee, where it awaits consideration.