Following the passage of SB 596 in the General Assembly today, Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association President and CEO Alex Baloga released the following statement:
“PFMA was proud to lead a coalition in support of SB 596, legislation which provides needed updates to Pennsylvania's laws to address this increasingly pervasive and dangerous form of retail theft carried out by criminal organizations for profit.
“The fact is, organized retail crime represents almost a $100 billion issue for the retail industry, and PFMA’s retail members, chiefly groceries and convenience stores, are in the crosshairs. We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill), sponsor of the legislation, and the other lawmakers, businesses, trade associations and stakeholders who shared our support for this measure. I urge Governor Shapiro to sign this important piece of legislation into law.”
In addition to updating Pennsylvania’s organized retail theft statute, SB 596 establishes a new task force under the authority of the state Attorney General to target and prosecute the individuals coordinating and leading this criminal activity. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Josh Shapiro for his signature.
PFMA members, allies urge House committee to exempt “swipe fees” from being charged on state sales tax collections
At a hearing of the Pennsylvania House Finance Committee this week, Linda Smith, payments manager for Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association member/sponsor Sheetz, along with the payments reform advocate John Drechny, CEO of the Merchant Advisory Group, testified in support of legislation to prohibit credit card networks from charging “swipe” fees on the sales tax collected and remitted to the state by retailers in Pennsylvania.
Unknown to most consumers, merchants are charged a fee averaging over 2% of the transaction – including the sales tax – every time a customer pays by credit card.
“For more than 70 years, Sheetz has been a valued partner with the state collecting sales tax,” Smith told committee members. “However, with the proliferation of credit card payments and under the current swipe fee system, we are now penalized for it.”
Sheetz estimates that the company has paid more than $1 million to credit card companies over the past year simply for processing the sales tax portion of credit card transactions.
“We should not be charged a swipe fee on funds we are not keeping as a business, particularly where those funds are being collected and remitted as a service to Pennsylvania,” Smith said.
Drechny told the committee that removing the fee from the sales tax portion of transaction is both technically feasible and should not be costly to retailers.
“This is not a matter of the technical ability to avoid imposing interchange fees on sales tax amounts that merchants must pay to the state,” Drechny said. “Instead, this is an issue of the desire of those who benefit from charging the merchants an additional amount to retain high profits.”
In correspondence to the committee, PFMA President and CEO Alex Baloga wrote, “exempting sales tax from the swipe fee will keep money in the state… 20 to 25 cents from every hundred dollars of taxable goods that would now remain with the retailer to spend on store improvements, employee compensation, and be more aggressive on pricing.”
For many merchants, swipe fees are now the highest operating cost after labor. In an environment of strong competition and narrow margins, this ever-rising cost ultimately must be built into pricing, driving up expenses for the average family by close to $1,000 a year, according to the Merchants Payments Coalition.
Milo’s Tea Company is a family-owned, Certified Women-Owned Business with corporate headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. Milo’s has been brewing the best tasting, closest-to-homemade iced tea for three generations and counting. Milo’s teas and lemonades taste just like homemade because its family recipe includes only a few simple ingredients and does not contain preservatives or added colors. Milo’s can be found in the refrigerated section of thousands of retailers across the United States. Learn more at www.drinkmilos.com.
Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market: Delivering fresh and healthy produce is our passion. It has been for generations. In fact, you can trace many of our merchants’ roots all the way back to the earliest fruit and vegetable marketplace in Philadelphia, Dock Street, where wholesalers bought or consigned goods from local farmers. For many of our merchants, it was on Dock Street where a lifelong obsession began to deliver the world’s finest and freshest produce.
Hoffman’s Exterminating is on the cutting edge of technology and industry advancements when it comes to Pest Control. Learn more about Hoffman’s and get ready for the level of pest control service you deserve by visiting their website: hoffmanexterminating.com
The Ferrero Group has a strong global presence, and Ferrero products are present and sold, directly or through authorized retailers, in more than 170 countries belonging to the entire international community.
An extensive and constantly increasing presence that attests to the quality of the products, the group’s ability to adapt and respond quickly to the needs of different markets, and the fact that the group and its products are in tune with the daily needs of consumers around the world.
Grubhub Inc. is an American online and mobile prepared food ordering and delivery platform based in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 2004, it is a subsidiary of the Dutch company Just Eat Takeaway since 2021.
Xode is a label printer with a wide range of multi-color printing capabilities, including 4-color process. With the latest narrow-web-press and digital equipment and more than 50 years of experience, Xode can consistently and economically deliver superior quality pressure-sensitive labels and tags of all types.
Feeding Pennsylvania is the statewide association of nine Feeding America-affiliated food banks. The mission of Feeding Pennsylvania is to promote and aid our member food banks in securing food and other resources to reduce hunger and food insecurity across the state and to provide a shared voice on the issues of hunger and food access within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Cooperative (MARC) is a member-led regional produce cooperative of Feeding America Food Banks serving the Mid-Atlantic Region from Maine to Virginia. Learn more about Feeding PA and their programs: www.Feedingpa.org
Sushi Awarsei is created by the love and happiness of food. The company is dedicated to helping immigrants settle in the US and encouraging them to aspire to entrepreneurship. Created by immigrants for immigrants.
Correlate, LLC is an ATM cash dispensing and Merchant Services business currently operating in 6 states, including Pennsylvania.
Dynamic Entry Solutions designs, installs, and maintains commercial security products, specializing in swing gates and turnstiles for commercial entryways.
Mike’s Amazing / Chefler Foods LLC The Mike’s Amazing brand of mayonnaise, mustards, vegetable oils, vinegar, sauces and salad dressings reflect the obsessive pursuit of perfection of food industry veterans Michael Leffler (CEO) and Michael Kurland (CFO). Delivering only the highest quality products with a level of personal service unmatched in the marketplace, Mike’s Amazing is currently one of the fastest-growing #condiments brands in the nation.
What are your top three legislative priorities in 2023? As Majority Chair of the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, I am focused on issues that have a direct impact on our seniors. This population is growing and we need to have the infrastructure and services to meet their needs. Right now, I see a great need for safe, affordable housing and more health care workers in nursing facilities across the state. Our committee has caring, smart legislators that want to find bi-partisan solutions. I’m looking forward to passing bills that will have positive changes for our older Pennsylvanians
What are the important issues facing your district? I represent Cumberland and Dauphin Counties. I’ve spoken to all four superintendents in the school districts that I represent. There is a need for teachers and substitutes in the classrooms. Last fall, we put together a package of bills that would remove some barriers for teachers to obtain their certificates and help relieve the financial burdens.
A quality public education for students will help prevent gun violence which is also a problem in parts of my district. I will continue to work hard to make sure we adequately fund our schools so we can give students the best education and future. But in the meantime they need to have the resources to pay for rising costs of bus transportation, cyber charter school reimbursements, building maintenance and special education.
Where do you shop locally for food? I go to Weis, Giant and Aldi’s.
What is your favorite vacation destination? My family visited Italy last summer and loved every minute there! My daughter decided to study a semester abroad in Rome next year. I guess we “have” to go back!
What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district? I first want to thank the grocers for staying open during the pandemic. I can’t imagine what they had to go through to keep their employees and customers safe while staying open. I believe some current challenges are attracting workers and trying to keep the cost of food low while dealing with inflation and supply chain issues.
What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator? I served 10 years in the minority party. It was difficult to keep reintroducing bills that I felt would help my district but then not come up for a vote. Now that I am part of the majority, I have been able to pass bills that would expand the Property Tax Rent Rebate program that is now law and pass a higher minimum wage that is currently in the Senate.
What is your favorite food or meal to cook? I grew up watching my grandmother cook Korean food when she lived with us. There are certain dishes like soups that bring comfort and memories of my childhood.
What do you like to do for fun? I like to visit state parks and hike with my family. When I’m not hiking, I like to take power naps on the weekend!
Family Meals Month is officially celebrated in September. A month-long campaign that encourages families to come together at least once a week to share a meal. The “holiday” first began as a movement to bring families together to enjoy a meal at least one time a month. Studies have shown frequent family meals lead to better nutrition and family dynamics.
Since it began in 2015, Family Meals Month has championed the importance of family meals, and the benefits of families having meals together have been supported by thousands of studies. PFMA realizes that the reality of family meals may be a struggle with busy schedules, time constraints, and other commitments. Many of our members are participating in Family Meals Month, and we wanted to share with you a few ways they are getting involved this year!
Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States, is getting involved in Family Meals Month by asking their customers to make the commitment of one more family meal a week. Even the simple addition of one meal a week has been shown to help kids grow into more respectful adults. Wakefern Food Corp. shares that family meals are linked to higher grades, and lower risk of obesity for both adults and children who have regular family meals. In short, the benefits go far beyond physical health, but their emotional and mental health, too.
In order to help their customers prepare one more meal at home each week, Wakefern Food Corp. has a Family Meals Month recipe book that they sent to all of their stores. This recipe book is also available as a digital PDF. Every week during September, they coordinated 3 sale items to align as a “meal deal” and could be used in a recipe that was featured in the recipe book.
Wakefern Food Corp. didn’t just stop at their cookbook and sale items; and they had a coordinated social media effort every week where they showed ways to use the weekly themes of taco night, pasta night, comfort food, and sheet pan suppers to create customizable meals. They also focused on three health attributes: diabetic-friendly, plant-goodness, and simple ingredients which shoppers can visit and shop by from their sr.com/welleveryday page.
A month-long campaign like Family Meals Month gives our members a great opportunity to collaborate. Wakefern Food Corp. was excited to collaborate with Homemade, an online cooking school where they hosted virtual cooking classes offered for free to their customers. They made potato chorizo tacos and coffee margaritas featuring Kraft products.
We hope everyone had a great September and got involved with Family Meals Month!
September is National We Card Month, a national awareness month encouraging retailers to ramp up and renew their training and compliance efforts while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is stepping up enforcement activities around underage tobacco sales.
We Card is providing retailers with several key steps to ensure they can comply with state and federal regulations, including:
We Card is a national nonprofit organization that represents a unified coalition of trade associations, retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to support retailers of tobacco and other age-restricted products. Retailers use We Card’s educational and training services to comply with federal and state laws while working to prevent underage tobacco, e-vapor, and other age-restricted product sales.
To access education and resources, visit: wecard.org
PFMA Welcomes New Board MemberJonathan Cruz, VP of Sales Support at Albertsons, Joins PFMA Board of Directors
The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association is pleased to welcome a new member to its Board of Directors. PFMA welcomes Jonathan Cruz, Vice President of Sales Support at Albertsons.
“It is always a pleasure to welcome members of the food and beverage industries to our PFMA Board of Directors,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “We look forward to the contributions Jonathan will make, lending his experience and deep knowledge of the industry.”
Cruz has been a valued member of the Albertsons family for over ten years, contributing significantly across two different banners. In total, Cruz has over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. His previous roles include managerial positions at Walmart and Giant of Landover. Before the retail sector, Cruz proudly served our country for eight years in the United States Marine Corps.
PFMA is led by a 38-member Board of Directors that includes retail and associate members.
This volunteer group shapes the association's agenda. Members are elected to unlimited three-year terms.
The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association is pleased to welcome a new member to its Board of Directors. PFMA welcomes David Simonetti, Senior Director of Store Operations and Business Operations for Wawa, Inc.
“What a great addition to our board; it is always a pleasure to welcome members of the food and beverage industries to our PFMA Board of Directors,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “We thank David and Wawa for their dedication to the association and look forward to benefitting from David’s perspectives and expertise.”
David Simonetti is a Senior Director of Store Operations for Wawa, Inc. In his role, he is responsible for the Pennsylvania and NJ Markets and Store Operations Business Support Services. He joined Wawa in 2014 after spending the previous 9 years with Five Guys Enterprise as the Regional Director for Northeast Operations in the US and Canada. During his time at Five Guys, he played an integral role in building the brand and growing the company from 40 to nearly 1,200 locations. David has a diverse background that also includes time in the automotive industry with Volvo Cars of North America.
David received his MBA from American University and his BA from The George Washington University. He is a father of four children, including his daughter Lena who was born with Down syndrome. His interest in supporting those with special needs led him to become a member of the Board of Directors for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. He is also a Co-Founder and Donor Advisor for PHL Cares, a high-impact business-led response to Philadelphia’s chronic street homelessness problem mobilizing resources and leadership for real solutions – housing, jobs, and services - to end homelessness.
PFMA is led by a 37-member Board of Directors that includes retail and associate members.
This volunteer group shapes the association's agenda. Members are elected to unlimited three-year terms.
Today, 1.8 million Pennsylvanians use SNAP. That’s roughly 14 percent of the state’s population. Of this group, 59 percent of recipients are families with children, while 46 percent are households with older adults or disabled individuals. In addition, 37 percent of recipients are classified as part of the working poor.
Clearly, SNAP is extremely important to recipients, but it is also important to communities. Every dollar in SNAP spending generates $1.50 in overall economic activity, which benefits food retailers, food processors and suppliers, farmers, and the business community.
Weis Markets has been engaged in SNAP advocacy for a long time, so we sat down with Dennis Curtin to find out a little more about some of the longstanding challenges for the industry, evergreen priorities when it comes to reform, and top-of-mind issues for this year specifically.
“Our engagement with SNAP is about explaining how the program impacts our customers and communities,” said Dennis Curtin of Weis Markets. “We’ve all heard the myths about individuals exploiting SNAP and engaging in fraudulent activities. In our business, we see SNAP recipients buying groceries to feed their families. Our top SNAP item is a family-size package of 80 percent ground beef. Essentials like eggs, bananas and a gallon of whole milk are in the top five.”
Overall, Weis Markets said that they have seen significant improvements to SNAP in recent years. For example, the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan formula has been updated to reflect how people buy and prepare food today compared to 40 years ago, and children and their families who are eligible for free meals at school will receive $120 in SNAP funding over the summer recess. It is their hope to see sustained improvements in these key areas.
On the other hand, Curtin discussed the end of the COVID emergency allotment and how that has uniquely created challenges for many recipients. Single-person households, who used to receive $95 per person per month, now receive $23. Many of these individuals are seniors, so Weis Markets hopes the Commonwealth will address this issue and increase the allotment for this group.
Weis Markets views SNAP advocacy as an ongoing process. While it’s true that SNAP is authorized every five years as part of the Farm Bill, it’s reviewed and scrutinized regularly. In addition, the USDA oversees administrative details of the program on an ongoing basis. Staying informed of these changes helps Weis Markets meet the needs of its SNAP customers.
Once you have an understanding of how SNAP affects your stores and communities, explain its impact to your elected representatives whenever you have the chance. Over the years, Weis Markets has developed a relationship with Congressman Glenn Thompson, who is Chairman of the Ag Committee and a key player in the Farm Bill. His district is home to many of their Weis Markets stores; he has been fair, helpful, and receptive to our advocacy about SNAP.
As a food merchant, you need to know how SNAP impacts your stores and communities. You should understand that this program impacts more than just its beneficiaries—it benefits the whole community. To get more involved with advocacy efforts email email@example.com.
2. What are the important issues facing your district?
Currently the 47th Senatorial District has been experiencing issues with road and bridge infrastructure, retaining a quality workforce, and overall labor shortage.
3. Where do you shop locally for food?I tend to frequent two local farms that have fresh fruits and vegetables from early spring until Thanksgiving.
4. What is your favorite vacation destination?I personally don’t have one special place, being that we have such a diverse region. My wife and I enjoy going to the beach, camping, and hiking in the mountains and in our national forests.
5. What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district?Several of our area grocers are faced with supply chain issues which continue to cause a downturn in certain product availability. They are also faced with workforce challenges.
6. What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator?As a legislator one of the biggest challenges that we can be faced with is building consensus on important legislative issues. Though what I find is one of the biggest successes in my position is being able to translate the issues my constituents are bringing to my attention into meaningful legislation. Two great examples of this are my Pie Bill (Senate Bill 828) which was signed into law in 2010 and my Telemedicine Bill (Senate Bill 739) which I introduced during the current legislative session.
7. What is your favorite food or meal to cook?I really enjoy cooking steak on the grill and eating the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available all summer long. I also enjoy ice cream at any time.
8. What do you like to do for fun? In my free time, I take pleasure in tending to my farm. My farm has been in my family for generations and is something that I am passionate about.
9. What is your greatest success as a legislator over the past few years? I am proud to say that several of the initiatives I have championed, which included my Pie Bill (Senate Bill 828 of 2010), the Pennsylvania Farm Bill (House Bill 1514 of 2019), my Horse Racing Industry Standards Bill (Senate Bill 1237of 2022), and my Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Bill (Senate Bill 478 of 2019), have been signed into law. Additionally, my Dog Law Modernization Bill (Senate Bill 746 of 2023) passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits House consideration.
Erica Koup Logsdon, Director of Communications and Media Relations