State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, today began serving as the new co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Hunger Caucus with state Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Lancaster/Chester.

“I’ll never step away from a challenge, and fighting hunger is a challenge,” Wheatley said. “I’ve seen firsthand how this issue affects the residents I represent, so I’m honored to partner with so many committed individuals who are working on solutions.”

At a Sept. 24 news conference, Wheatley spoke of his own childhood experience.

“I had two working parents, but I remember many nights when they watched their children eat, and then they ate what was left. I didn’t know it was called food insecurity. I thought it was normal.”

The news conference was held to recognize Hunger Action Month and to promote today’s second food drive at the Capitol.

The bipartisan caucus is again holding the drive in partnership with Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, a network of 21 food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, charities and other hunger relief organizations serving all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
“By many measurements, agriculture is Pennsylvania’s number-one industry. I believe we have the capacity to end hunger,” Wheatley said. “I look forward to working with Senator Brubaker and other legislators from both parties, as well as the many hunger relief organizations that do such important work throughout Pennsylvania.

“I have already been working with Representative Dwight Evans and others to make sure that everyone in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania has access not just to food, but to nutritious food. Another priority is the Statewide Food Purchase Program, which helps food banks buy and distribute millions of pounds of food to those in need, and was cut by about half a million dollars last year, or nearly 3 percent. I would like to see that funding restored, and if possible, increased.”

The Hunger Caucus’ efforts also include maintaining a 1,000-square-foot “Hunger Garden” at the Capitol. The garden helps raise awareness of hunger issues while supplying local food banks and soup kitchens with fresh produce.

Since its creation in 2010, the Capitol Hunger Garden has been staffed by volunteers and supported entirely by donations from businesses, organizations and individuals.

More information about the Hunger Caucus is available at http://senatorbrubaker.com/hungercaucus.htm.