For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. – Matthew 25:35
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For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. – Matthew 25:35


An estimated 11.8 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2017, according to the Household Food Security in the United States report released by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. This means these households lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. That is down from 12.3 percent in 2016. The prevalence of very low food security also declined, to 4.5 percent from 4.9 percent in 2016.  Very low food security (defined as involuntarily going without food due to not being able to afford it) affected 4% of Pennsylvania households in 2017. According to the study, 12% of Pennsylvania households were food insecure – lacking access to sufficient food to meet their nutritional needs.

Map the Meal Gap, released annually by Feeding America, the nationwide network of food banks, found similarly high levels of food insecurity among individuals in Pennsylvania. The only study available that provides county–level estimates of food insecurity in the United States, Map the Meal Gap  found that in 2017, 12.5% people across the Commonwealth were food insecure, including 16.9 percent of all Pennsylvania children.

Other specific findings from this report include:
– Nearly 1.6 million Pennsylvanians –1 in 8 – is at risk of hunger.
– Nearly 452,690 children under the age of 18 in Pennsylvania – 1 in 6 – are at risk of hunger.
– The cost to completely close the meal gap in Pennsylvania and ensure that every person has continuous access to food would be approximately $797,438,000 per year.
– The 5 counties with the highest rates of food insecurity among the general population are: Philadelphia (20.1%), Fayette (14.6%), Forest (14.5%), Erie (13.9%), and Clarion (13.4%).

Data released in February 2015 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in the report, Food Hardship in America 2016, found that Pennsylvanians continue to be plagued by hunger. The data in this report is based on responses reported to the Gallup organization as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In this report, FRAC looks at the data separately for households with children and households without children. Given how high child poverty rates are, compared to poverty rates for households without children, it is unsurprising that the food hardship rate is considerably higher in households with children. The difference, however, underscores how broad the harm is to children from poverty and hunger in our society.

A 2018 study, “How Hungry is America?”, shows one in seven American households — 15.7 percent — reported they didn’t have enough money to buy the food their families needed at times during 2017. The report by the Food Research and Action Council (FRAC) shows after several years of fairly continuous improvement (reductions) in the food hardship rate as the nation recovered from the recession (e.g., the national rate fell in 2014, 2015, and 2016), the food hardship rate rose from 15.1 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017.

Read the Briefing Paper on Hunger in Pennsylvania prepared by LAMPa and other hunger organizations for the Governor Wolf Transition Team in 2015.

Learn more about HUNGER-FREE PENNSYLVANIA -The state’s single largest nonprofit provider of food resources and meals to older Pennsylvanians and hungry families, working in partnership with state and federal governments and nonprofit organizations.

Find out about the work of Hunger Free Lancaster County on their website and in recent news articles.

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Summer Nutrition Status Report measures the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2018, nationally and in each state.  Click here to access the Pennsylvania Summer Food Service Program report.