Food Insecurity in Pa. and beyond | The Numbers Racket

In 2019, 1,353,730 Pennsylvanians – 10.6 percent – were food insecure

By: - December 13, 2021 6:30 am

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to Americans, from employment and housing to healthcare and food security. 

For this week’s edition of the Numbers Racket, the Capital-Star is taking a look at food insecurity in Pennsylvania and beyond. 

Note: The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the lack of access to adequate food for an active, healthy life for all members of a household and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. 


In 2019, before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 35.2 million Americans – or 10.9 percent – were food insecure, according to Feeding America data. 

Prior to the pandemic, the national average meal cost $3.13, compared with an average of $3.17 in Pennsylvania pre-pandemic. 

In 2019, 1,353,730 Pennsylvanians – 10.6 percent – were food insecure.

According to Feeding America, much of Pennsylvania experienced food insecurity rates between 4 and 14 percent prior to the pandemic. Two counties, Forest and Fayette Counties, had food insecurity rates above 14 percent prior to the outbreak. 

A Pandemic’s Impact

A March 2021 report from Feeding America projected that 42 million people – one in every eight people – may experience food insecurity, including 13 million children. 

The report also noted “significant racial disparities in food insecurity, which existed before COVID-19.”

The organization estimates that 21 percent of Black people may have experienced food insecurity in 2021, compared to 11 percent of white people. 

Likewise, one in six Latinos (15.8 percent) lived in a food insecure household and one in four Native Americans (23.5 percent) said the same. 

“These disparities are also apparent in the underlying factors that contribute to food insecurity.” the report reads. “While the overall poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5 percent, poverty among white individuals was 9.1 percent compared to 18.8 percent for Black individuals and 15.7 percent for Latino individuals.”

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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.