The Commonwealth reports a 43.9% increase in the need for food assistance since the economy went south in 2008. Food banks have been under pressure ever since. “It has not stopped in three years. It’s getting worse, as we can see,” says Sheila Christopher, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks (PARF).
A new Census report issued just days before the Legislative Food Drive pegs the federal poverty rate at 15.1%. More Americans are living in poverty than at any other time since the report was first published 52-years ago. “It’s 2011, it’s not 1950. We seem to be going backwards,” Christopher said as she called the poverty numbers completely unacceptable.
A second Census report shows a statewide poverty rate of 13.4%. “Every day in Pennsylvania, one in five Pennsylvanians is hungry, and this is an unfortunate reality that we can end,” says State Senator Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), co-chair of the Legislative Hunger Caucus. “This is an issue that touches everybody, I don’t care what your registration is,” adds State Rep. John Myers (D-Philadelphia), the other co-chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Hunger Caucus.
September is Hunger Action Month in Pennsylvania, as proclaimed by Governor Tom Corbett. While the state and federal governments help to subsidize food banks, Christopher says donors are their core. “Imagine if everyone in Pennsylvania gave a dollar, that’s 12-million dollars.”