Centre County seeks larger food allocation

BELLEFONTE — Many residents of Centre County rely on food banks to put food on their tables.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Centre County commissioners unanimously approved a letter of support that will be sent to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in support of an increase in allocation for the State Food Purchase Program.

Adult Services Director in Centre County Faith Ryan spoke at length about the letter and the need for the increase.

“This came down from commissioner (Michael) Pipe, who has a nice connection with the Central PA Food Bank and they’re working on a campaign to let the state know how much … additional money we could really use for this,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that in 2019, Centre County served 3,399 low income individuals who relied in-network food pantries. In Centre County, there are eight in-network food pantries that receive state and federal money. She pointed out that Centre County residents also receive support from food pantries outside the network. Those are privately funded and don’t receive state or federal money.

“We’re very, very fortunate to have a lot of outlying food pantries among various communities and churches as well,” Ryan said.

According to Ryan, since fiscal year 2017-18, Centre County has seen a decrease in its SFPP funds by $5,272.90. Since fiscal year 2006-07, the state has allocated $18.7 million for SFPP. A decade later, the state is looking at an allocation of $18.1 million — a significant decrease.

The letter of support asks that $36 million be allocated toward the SFPP. Ryan said they realize, of course, that amount is unlikely.

“That’s really pushing it,” she said. “That would be quite an achievement. We’re hoping to get a little bit of an increase.”

Pipe said that the letter of support could prove to be a step in the right direction to getting additional funding.

“I think this is important for us to consider this. It’s a way for us to show our support for our (Centre County) citizens — in a time of need — have the help available from the food pantries,” Pipe said.

Ryan said that the pantries are always in need of items that cannot be purchased with state and federal money. Those items include toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo and soap. They’re also in need of condiments, such as ketchup and mustard.

The letter was unanimously approved for next week’s consent agenda.

In other business, the commissioners:

— Announced that Patricia Best will serve as chairwoman for the State College-Centre County mental health task force. Best replaces Billie Willits, who passed away in November following a battle with cancer. The task force was created to evaluate Centre County’s mental health system and crisis services. Best has an impressive resume, having worked for the State College Area School District for 24 years. She retired from the district in 2009.

— Approved a contract renewal with Miller, Kistler and Campbell for the re-appointment of John R. Miller III, Esquire, to serve as solicitor for the Register of Wills office. The annual retainer rate is $1,000 to be billed at a rate of $175 per hour and out of pocket costs such as filing fees, court reporter fees and transcripts. The contract runs from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020. The contract renewal was pushed to next week’s consent agenda.

— Submission of an insurance renewal application to the Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool (PCorRP) to establish rates for 2020-2021. Due to strict deadlines, it was pushed through and will not appear on next week’s consent agenda.

— Approved a contract with Unified Dispatch, LLC to provide IVR service, which works directly with Ecolane to provide automated calls to clients. The contract total is estimated at $600 per month for the period of Fev. 1, 2020 through Jan. 31, 2021. The contract will appear on next week’s consent agenda.

— Approved a Corporation for National Community Services (CNCS) budget submission for grant year three. This is a federal grant and will fund the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) personnel salaries and outreach activities. Grant total is $179,836 which is funded as follows: Federal ($103,617) and county ($76,219) during the period of April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday Jan. 28 at the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte.