The “hidden problem” of food insecurity affects one in nine people in Central Pennsylvania, according to area service organizations.
“Food insecurity is many times a hidden problem,” said Alice Fox, board president of the New Love Center in Jersey Shore. “Many of our seniors will pay for medication, or bills, and purchasing food is the last on the list.”
A food insecure person is someone who does not have dependable access to nutritious food, according to the Central PA Food Bank, one of many organizations drawing attention to the issue this month in hopes of sparking action.
Center fills a need
After a food pantry in Jersey Shore closed, community members sought to fill a need and the Trinity United Methodist Church partnered with St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church to open the New Love Center Food Pantry and Cafe as a nonprofit in 2017.
“Several months ago a senior (citizen) showed me that she lives on $480 a month. She said after paying her bills she barely has enough for food. She was tearful and said she was so blessed by the food she received,” Fox said.
The center serves breakfast and lunch to roughly 60 people a day, Monday through Friday. The pantry then distributes food the second and fourth Fridays of the month.
A backpack program also is available and provides food to school children for the weekends – benefitting about 200 children each month, Fox said.
In all, over 1,200 people are served by the center.
Working himself out of a job
At the American Rescue Workers, Gary Shipman hopes to work himself out of a job.
“You get the experience of what it feels like to give back,” said Shipman, director of communications for social services at the nonprofit. “I want to get rid of the need to have these programs. I would gladly trade my job if it meant there was no more need.”
The American Rescue Workers has provided food assistance in Lycoming County since 1934.
Help is available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, food assistance is available from 1 to 4 p.m.
Shipman said working with volunteers is fulfilling, adding that Wednesdays are the busiest day at the office and he always needs more helpers.
Shipman emphasized that if people are struggling with paying rent or utility bills, they probably also are struggling with buying food.
The ARW serves about 700 to 1,000 individuals a month.
The power of partnerships
The Central PA Food Bank serves 27 counties and more than 135,000 people every month. In addition, it is one of 200 food banks across the country that participate in Feeding America, an effort to provide food to every county in the nation. Together, the food banks supply more than 3 billion meals to people in need.
“Hunger Action Month is an opportunity for the public to join a movement having a real and lasting impact on the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s effort to provide healthy, nutritious food to neighbors in need in the 27 counties it serves,” according to Carla Fisher, the communications coordinator for the food bank,
Williamsport Area School District is partnering with the food bank to help hunger insecure children through a Dress Down event.
“The program not only provides a weekend’s worth of free meals to food-insecure students through the school year, it also allows students to access food during school time as needed,” according to the district.Click here to participate and purchase a t-shirt to wear on Friday, Oct. 18. One shirt will feed 10 kids for one weekend.