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David DeVries maneuvers pallets of canned goods around at the food distribution center for Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County in Lancaster city on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecure Americans were receiving additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments during the second half of each month, as authorized under the federal government’s coronavirus rescue package. The last of those extra monthly payments were sent in February; in March, SNAP recipients went back to receiving one payment a month. “In Lancaster County, where 48,110, or 8.7%, of its residents are food insecure, there are more than 55,000 SNAP recipients for whom the end of the extra SNAP payments means a 38% average monthly loss from $273 to $170 per person, according to Zach Zook, senior policy research manager at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life,” reported LNP | LancasterOnline’s Enelly Betancourt in Sunday’s “Lancaster Watchdog” column.

You can’t accomplish much when you’re hungry.

You can’t study or complete schoolwork to the best of your ability, or be truly effective at your job. When a person is hungry, being hungry crowds out everything else.

In this wealthy country —and in this county, where fresh food is bountiful — no one should be hungry. And yet, too many are.

It is essential that we assist those who are dealing with food insecurity.

For this reason, we’ve contended that Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal to provide free school breakfast to all public school students would be a sound investment in Pennsylvania’s children — and thus in Pennsylvania itself.

We hope that Lancaster County lawmakers support this investment in the well-being of this county’s children.

Especially as many of their families may be experiencing what advocates have called the “hunger cliff” — the sharp consequences of the drop-off in federal food assistance.

According to the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, “The average SNAP benefits have fallen to a meager $6 a person a day. The steepest cliff has been for older adults at the minimum benefit level who saw their monthly SNAP benefits fall from $281 to $23.”

And when the federal COVID-19 public health emergency ends Thursday, expanded SNAP benefits for college students also will end.

As Betancourt reported, “many SNAP households struggling to make up the difference since losing the additional monthly payments have turned to food banks and pantries already stretched thin by increased demand from rising food prices.”

As she explained, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank distributes food through a network of more than 1,000 partner agencies and programs, including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency food providers and schools.

Zook told her that the loss in SNAP benefits in Lancaster County alone amount to $5.7 million per month.

This we found to be particularly distressing: Zook said children in Lancaster County are 55% more likely to be food insecure than adults, with a food insecurity rate of 11.9% compared to 7.7% for adults.

Again, state lawmakers, please take heed. The fact that more than 1 in 10 county children don’t know where their next meal is coming from should keep us all awake at night.

As should the idea of anyone, of any age, struggling with food insecurity.

Across the food bank’s 27-county service area, average monthly SNAP benefits per person are expected to drop by 39%, from $271 to $166. That is a huge drop in food assistance.

David DeVries, food distribution manager at Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, said that nonprofit distributed food through its partner organizations to 29,000 households in the first quarter of 2023 — a stunning 93% increase from the 15,000 households served in the first quarter of 2022.

“The extra money people were getting has all ended, but the need is still there and growing, so people are turning to the food banks, and we try to make sure we have enough to provide people with what they need,” DeVries said.

We know that nearly everyone has been affected by high food prices and utility fee increases. But if you’re able, we ask you to consider contributing to the nonprofits working to provide nutritious meals to food insecure children and adults in Lancaster County.

— The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank (centralpafoodbank.org) seeks volunteers, as well as monetary donations. It accepts food donations from farmers, wholesalers and retailers.

— The Lancaster County Food Hub (lancasterfoodhub.org/food) provides groceries, including fresh food items, to people in need. It accepts volunteers (lancasterfoodhub.org/volunteer) and monetary donations, as well as food donations (lancasterfoodhub.org/donate). 

Blessings of Hope is a faith-based nonprofit that takes fresh but unwanted food destined for the landfill and instead supplies it to food banks and other charities. It, too, seeks volunteers and monetary donations.

— The Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County (caplanc.org) accepts monetary donations. It also needs volunteers (caplanc.org/volunteer) for the Crispus Attucks Community Center Food Bank every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Volunteers also are needed to help sort donations to the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive from 5-8 p.m. this Saturday; email ddevries@caplanc.org to get details about parking, etc.

That food drive is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers. If your letter carrier has delivered a postcard stating that you live in a participating area, please consider placing a bag of nonperishable food items by your mailbox Saturday morning for your letter carrier to collect. (Missed items will be collected Monday.)

According to the association, the most-requested nonperishable food items include cereal, pasta, pasta sauce, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, 100% juice, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, canned protein and beans. Please do not donate frozen food, homemade food or home-canned items, or items that have expired or are in glass jars.

Those struggling with food insecurity include people with jobs, people with disabilities, people too young to work and people who worked for decades but now, in their retirement, cannot make ends meet.

If you’re able, please help.

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