The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has changed the guidelines for the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

The program helps low-income families by providing them with food at no cost.

Under the previous guidelines, a one-person household could make $19,320 or less annually to qualify.

Under the new guidelines, a one-person household is able to make $25,142 or less to receive assistance.

According to Second Harvest Food Bank Director of Network Relations Gerry Weiss, the change is huge.

"It's pretty much a major relief right in the nick of time for people who are desperate for our help," said Weiss. "Anyone who goes into a grocery store and looks at the prices will know how crucial it is."

Second Harvest Food Bank spent Wednesday and Thursday providing meals to families in need, through their Produce Express Program.
Paul Dimperio relies on the program to help feed his family.

"I've got a family of five, I'm on disability because I can't work as much," said Dimperio. "I had a knee replacement and everything, and then we all came out here and it's helping us out."

The drive-thru program provides more than 100 families with 50 pounds of fresh food for free.

"It helps us out quite a bit," said Dimperio. "We were shut down for food stamps for quite a while, and then they told us about this, so we're like, alright, we'll come here and they helped us."

As inflation soars, Weiss says the food bank's programs are needed more now, than at the height of COVID.

"With COVID, we saw a great increase in need," said Weiss. "Now, you're talking about people who economically are challenged more than ever before."

In January, a total of 671 families relied on the Second Harvest Food Bank for the first time for food assistance.

In June, that number nearly doubled to 1,336.

"These are folks who are really feeling the pinch and are coming to get food that the've never needed help with before." said Weiss. "It's sad that that's happened, but we are here and we are here to help people in a time of great need."

For Dimperio and other families in need, the assistance is crucial.

"It's wonderful," said Dimperio. "It helps everybody out."

This story is supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.