Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pantry Initiative (PA HPI) program was showcased by Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson Friday. The two state officials joined representatives from Feeding Pennsylvania and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania to showcase the program in action.
“If you, or someone you know, is experiencing food insecurity, please know there are supports and resources available,” Dr. Johnson said. “This is just one program that is essential for people experiencing food insecurity to increase access to healthy foods and beverages and educate people on how those healthy options can still taste great without restricting someone’s freedom of food choices. Our long-term goal is to reduce the burden of disease and increase the quality of life for Pennsylvanians who use food support systems.”
This program has supported tens of thousands pantry clients, increasing their consumption of healthy foods by highlighting the healthy food choices within the food pantries. It equips clients with reliable and helpful information and provides displays and storage equipment to showcase healthier options.
Program materials include shelf talkers, signage, produce information, and recipe cards that are instrumental in food demonstrations, tastings, and nutrition classes hosted through local food pantries.
“Feeding Pennsylvania knows that it is not enough to just provide food for the families we serve. We must also provide them with the resources to prepare that food,” said Megan Greevy, R.D., Healthy Pantry Initiative project manager for Feeding PA. “We are grateful for this partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and look forward to continuing to expand the Healthy Pantry Initiative to ensure that every family we serve not only receives food, but also feels empowered with the resources to support the preparation of nutritious meals for themselves and their families.”
PA HPI currently works with 90 food pantries throughout the state, with plans to bring more pantries on board throughout the remainder of the year. Feeding Pennsylvania and participating food banks have also been working to create nutrition policies emphasizing the importance of healthy options, which will sustain the healthy changes long term. Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania has been involved with HPI for more than two years, and 29 of their pantries are currently participating in the program.
“Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania’s Healthy Pantry Initiative Program (HPI) helps our member agencies to create a marketplace that looks and feels like a small grocery store with healthy alternatives prominently displayed,” said Karen S. Seggi, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of NW PA. “We want ‘the healthy choice to be the easy choice’ for our neighbors who are seeking emergency food assistance in our region. Thanks to the Department of Health and the HPI program, Second Harvest is making strides to improve food security in northwest Pennsylvania.”
Through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health (DOH) supports PA HPI in partnership with Feeding Pennsylvania to increase access to healthy food and beverage options. The program started in 2017. It expanded in October 2020 as a result of SNAP-Ed funding.
It is now a nationally recognized program offering a practice-tested intervention in the United States Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Ed toolkit.