By Marsha MacKinnon – Contributor/Web Editor
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania supports food pantries in eleven counties. The Presbytery of Lake Erie includes many of these counties. According to Second Harvest, 88,170 individuals in northwest Pennsylvania are food insecure. Of this total 29% are children under the age of 18. In addition, Second Harvest reports that 1 in 12 veterans in this region are food insecure. Second Harvest also reports, 14.8% is the average poverty rate throughout the eleven counties.
In the City of Erie, Data USA reports the following on Poverty & Diversity:
- 24.7% of the population for whom poverty status is determined in Erie, PA (22.3k out of 90.1k people) live below the poverty line, a number that is (significantly) higher than the national average of 12.6%.
- The largest demographic living in poverty are Females 25 – 34, followed by Females 18 – 24 and then Males 18 – 24.
- The most common racial or ethnic group living below the poverty line in Erie, PA is White, followed by Black and Hispanic.
- The student body at the schools served by the Erie City School District is 37.5% White, 33.2% Black, 5.2% Asian or Asian/Pacific Islander, 11.2% Hispanic/Latino, 0.3% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.
- In addition, 12.5% of students are two or more races, and 0% have not specified their race or ethnicity.
- Also, 49% of students are female, and 51% of students are male, and 8.7% of students are English language learners.
- At schools in Erie City School District, 69.0% of students are eligible to participate in the federal free and reduced price meal program.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro proposed providing free breakfast to every child in public schools in his first budget address. According to governor.pa.org, the 2023-24 budget delivered on this proposal – providing a $46.5 million increase to provide universal free breakfast to Pennsylvania’s 1.7 million public school students. In addition, there’s funding to provide free lunch to all 22,000 Pennsylvania students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program.
- 44 million people in the United States are food insecure (Total population:US Census Bureau 332 million)
- 13 million children in the United State are food insecure
- 49 milllion people turned to food programs in 2022
- (Source: Feeding America’s annual report – Charitable Food Assistant Participation)
These numbers give us facts about hunger in our communities, our commonwealth and our country. While giving thanks, we also need to remember that these numbers represent people who are food insecure. For America – the land of plenty – these numbers tell us that too many are going hunger.