Joe Arthur

Joe Arthur, Executive Director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, talks with the LNP Editorial Board Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank serves about 50,000 people in Lancaster County.

That's not enough, according to its executive director Joe Arthur, who said if it had unlimited resources it would serve 75,000.

The 25,000 person gap is not the result of a supply shortage, Arthur said. Rather, the problem stems from not having enough partners to distribute food to all parts of the county.

Arthur and Jennifer Sands, the food bank's communications and marketing manager, stopped by LNP's offices on Tuesday to talk about the challenges their organization faces in 2019 and what people should know about food banking.

Here are three takeaways:

 - Supply is strong, but distribution gaps make it hard to reach everyone

Central Pennsylvania Food Bank operates like the nonprofit United Way, providing resources and training to other organizations that do on-the-ground work, according to Arthur. Partners include food pantries, soup kitchens and social programs, the majority faith-based, though the food bank is a secular organization.

While Lancaster city is well served, large gaps in distribution exist in the eastern part of the county, Arthur said. Half of those in need of food assistance come from rural areas where it is harder to identify need and reach clients, he said.

For the future, the food bank will continue to work with more social service providers, school districts and other youth programs throughout the county to develop programs, Arthur said.

 - Working families now comprise majority of food bank clients

In the past, working families - families with at least one parent working full time - made up 30% of the food bank's clientele. That proportion has increased greatly in recent years, Arthur said.

The shift is mostly due to wage gains not keeping pace with the falling unemployment rate at the national level, Arthur said. Rises in the cost of living often outpace wage gains, which puts further financial pressure on families.

 - Food rescue is robust, and the food bank owes 75% of its supply to businesses

Much of the public still believes that grocery stores throw out most of their food, Arthur said. That's no longer true, at least in Lancaster County, he said. "Food rescue," or the collection of unsold products from businesses, is a thriving source of food for the food bank.

And it's not just dry foods that the food bank is rescuing. Any food that is fresh and has not passed its recommended "use by" date is eligible for donation to the bank, Arthur said.

Central Pennsylvania Food Bank can be reached by phone at their Harrisburg office at 717-564-1700 or their Williamsport office at 570-321-8023. To find a food provider near you, visit their website.

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