The Lead

Report finds 2M Pennsylvanians struggled with food insecurity during the pandemic

By: - September 15, 2021 3:49 pm

(Image via Flickr Commons)

A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Frances Wolf as being in attendance. 

Two million. That’s the number of Pennsylvanians struggling with food insecurity, according to data from Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.

State officials, including Department of Human Services Secretary Meg Snead and a representative for Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to recognize Hunger Action Month, those struggling with food insecurity, and to offer their support to the commonwealth’s food banks. 

“The numbers – 2 million Pennsylvanians – are devastating, but our food banks, our volunteers and our food partners continue to show us that we can do something to lessen the impact of hunger in our communities,” Wolf said in a statement Wednesday. “In this past year-and-a-half, when we were all faced with uncertainty, they demonstrated just how powerful we are when we come together to support one another. Food insecurity is everyone’s issue, and it will take all of us to stand up against it during Hunger Action Month and every month if we want to end it.”

Of the 2 million Pennsylvanians facing food insecurity in 2020, 630,000 were children, according to Feeding America data. 

“Having enough to eat is a privilege that’s easy to overlook, but food and nutrition are essential to good health and overall well-being. As we recognize Hunger Action Month, I want to thank our food banks and pantries, their dedicated volunteers, and all of our partners in the charitable food network for their heroic work to support our communities through the last year-and-a-half,” Snead said.

In 2020, nearly 1 in 20 Pennsylvanians were “newly food insecure,” meaning they did not have reliable access to adequate, nutritious meals during the pandemic. 

“Last year, the pandemic led to a significant increase in food insecurity across Pennsylvania due to temporary unemployment as a result of restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Jane Clements, chief executive officer of Feeding Pennsylvania said. “But despite the improvement in numbers, many of our neighbors continue to face great need and impossible choices. For many families, it’s often a decision between food or other critical needs such as childcare, utility bills, or medication. 

According to a statement from the Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania’s food banks, which typically serve more than 2.2 million people each year, served more than 41.8 million duplicate individuals since the pandemic began in March 2020. 

Duplicate individuals are individuals who have accessed food from the same food bank more than once annually. 

“Feeding PA invites individuals across the state to join us this Hunger Action Month to help raise awareness and funds to ensure that no one in Pennsylvania goes without food,” Clements said. 

The department also encouraged Pennsylvanians experiencing food insecurity to apply for assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared. Follow her on Twitter: @Wordsby_CassieM.