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PASS Program partners with Land O’Lakes, Inc., Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Penn Cheese and others to turn surplus milk into food for families struggling with hunger

The government-funded program connects Pennsylvania’s growers and processors with food banks

HARRISBURG (June 22, 2017) - Land O’Lakes, Inc. recently donated four truckloads of surplus milk to Penn Cheese in Winfield, Union County, which was processed into over 28,000 pounds of cheddar cheese. The processing cost was paid for using the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System, or “PASS” program, and the cheese was distributed to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank; Second Harvest Food Bank of NWPA (Erie) and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for families struggling with hunger.

PASS is a state-funded program within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s budget that connects the state’s agricultural growers and processors with food banks and other emergency food providers allowing them the ability to offer healthy nutritious food to meet the needs of low-income Pennsylvanians.

“The Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System program has been incredibly successful in accomplishing what it set out to do: connect our agricultural producers with the charitable food system,” said state Department of Agriculture Executive Deputy Secretary Michael Smith. “It is a sad reality that too many of our neighbors—nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians—face the threat of hunger every day. In an agricultural state as rich and diverse as ours, we should all find that unacceptable. Fortunately, thanks to PASS and our partners in the program, many of whom are here today, we’re helping to fill that need, putting more locally sourced foods on the tables of those who need it.”

“Feeding Pennsylvania’s member food banks are dedicated to providing healthy food to families facing hunger and we are extremely grateful for our strong relationships with our generous agriculture community,” said Jane Clements-Smith, executive director. “The PASS program has allowed our member food banks to distribute millions of pounds of nutritious Pennsylvania product to the nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians facing hunger every day, half a million of whom are children, and we welcome the expansion of the PASS program to provide even more opportunities for the charitable food system to partner with the agriculture community.” PASS provides a safe, efficient system for producers, packers and processors to be reimbursed for costs involved in harvesting, processing and/or packaging donated product.

“As a dairy farmer, I’m proud to support the PASS program and happy to see the milk that we produce on our dairy farm be processed into cheese for people who need healthy, nutritious dairy products in their diets,” said Brandon Weary, farmer, Maystone Acres Dairy Farm and Land O’ Lakes, Inc. member-owner. “Dairy is a key economic driver for Pennsylvania, representing the largest sector within the agriculture industry and generating more than $7 billion in economic activity for the commonwealth annually.”

“Twenty-eight thousand pounds of cheddar cheese now has the potential to make its way into 28,000 homes – to families that experience hunger and food insecurity. PASS has allowed us to be reimbursed for the costs involved in processing and packaging donated product, and as a processor I’m thrilled to see milk and cheese in the Northeast help benefit people and families who need it the most,” said Jon Weber, General Manager, Penn Cheese.

Since PASS was first funded in 2015, more than 3.9 million pounds of food have been distributed to more than 585,000 low-income Pennsylvania households. This consists of 39 different products (including fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats) distributed in all 67 counties from 78 farmers, growers and processors. In the 2016 calendar year, a total of 105,876 quart equivalents of fresh, local milk were purchased from Pennsylvania dairies using the PASS program, equaling 423,000 servings of milk.

“The PASS program is an extraordinary example of collaboration among our agriculture industry, food banks and government,” said Erin Smith Wachter, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “Our food bank is proud to partner with the Department of Agriculture to administer the PASS program on behalf of the entire Commonwealth.”

Pictured in photo (left to right): Jon Weber, General Manager, Penn Cheese; Erin Smith Wachter, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank; Mariana Skonieczka, Food Sourcing Coordinator, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania; Brandon Weary, Farmer/Land O’ Lakes, Inc. Member-Owner; Jane Clements-Smith, Executive Director, Feeding Pennsylvania and Michael Smith, Executive Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

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