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Stop hoarding food, says state agriculture secretary: 'Go back to normal patterns,' help food banks

Volunteer Tom Jones pushes a cart of food from the Middletown Area Interfaith Food Pantry to load into someone's car on Friday, March 20.
Volunteer Tom Jones pushes a cart of food from the Middletown Area Interfaith Food Pantry to load into someone's car on Friday, March 20.
staff photo by laura hayes

Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture had a blunt message for residents in a video posted Tuesday: “Please, don’t hoard the food.”

Russell Redding, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, said the actions of some to buy more than they need is having an effect on food banks. He asked for Pennsylvanians to be “measured” when they shop for food.

“Don’t buy more than you need. Buy just what the family needs for this week or two. Go back to normal patterns, and that will allow the food system to catch up, let it catch its breath, to get all these new people who need access to food through our charitable food system,” he said.


Food banks open, ready to help; they could use added volunteers as they brace for more people in need


He said the hoarding of food and empty shelves “impacts our neighbors who have the same needs that we have,” but also affects those going to food banks for the first time because of COVID-19-related business shutdowns.

“Those food banks are critical at this moment, and they’re trying to supply products and food to families in need. By our purchasing habits outside of the food banks, it’s impacting the food banks. It’s a system. So please be mindful that because of our need for products at home, we’re putting a lot of demand and pressure on the retail setting as well as our food banks. They need our help, they need our patience, they need our understanding right now that everyone needs access to food. That’s our responsibility collectively. So please, don’t hoard the food.”

He also thanked the farmers, food processors, volunteers and food banks. who are “making the system work.”

There are three area food banks. None reported food shortages last week.

• Middletown Area Interfaith Council Food Pantry at 201 Wyoming St. in Royalton. Distribution each week every Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Grace and Mercy food bank at Grace and Mercy Church at 501 Ann St. in Middletown just outside Harrisburg International Airport. Distribution every second and fourth Friday of each month at the church from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

• Glad Tidings Assembly of God, distribution every third Wednesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church on Fulling Mill Road just off North Union Street.

For all three, bring proof of identification and residency, such as a driver’s license and/or utility bill.

On his website Sunday, Gov. Tom Wolf said Pennsylvanians should feel confident in the food supply and shop for food at their normal rate.

“Even in a pandemic, grocery stores and food banks are life-sustaining and accessible; food production and distribution are continuing,” Wolf said. “I urge all Pennsylvanians to have faith in our food system. If each one of us commits to only buy what we need; there will be enough for everyone and their neighbors.”

Here is some of the guidance issued last week by the Department of Agriculture:

• Life-Sustaining Businesses for a Safe Food Supply

• Farm and On-Farm Deliveries

• Food Processors and Manufacturers

• Livestock Markets

• Farmers Markets and On-Farm Markets

• Retail Grocery and Restaurants

• Accessing Emergency Food Assistance

• Retail/Food Manufacturing

The following guidance is available for those who are food insecure and organizations that provide for the food insecure.

• Community Feeding

• Guidance for Food Banks