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United Way of Lancaster County


Nonprofits creating county ‘hunger map’

Individuals sign up to receive food boxes at Crispus Attucks Community Center in Lancaster in this March 2023 file photo. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

A report coming this summer is expected to give a clear, detailed picture of household food insecurity in Lancaster County and the resources available to offset it.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the Hunger Free Lancaster County coalition have been working over the past year on the Lancaster County Hunger Mapping Project, Zach Zook, the food bank’s senior policy research manager, said Tuesday during United Way of Lancaster County’s “Conversation About OUR Community” on food insecurity.

Zach Zook

He characterized the project as a “deep dive,” looking at hunger data at the zip code level. On the supply side, it’s looking not only at food pantry capacity but at accessibility issues, such as hours of operation, financial requirements and transportation convenience.

It’s also factoring in “upstream issues,” he said, such as incomes and housing security.

The data will serve two goals, he said: Optimizing the charity food system to ensure that it’s getting food to the people who need it; and identifying “systemic level changes” that could make families more self-sufficient and able to supply their food needs themselves.

Preliminary results from recent surveys indicate there is a need for additional food support in southern and northwestern Lancaster County, Zook said.

The data also shows that food pantries in Lancaster city, which serve predominantly Black and Hispanic clients, tend to offer pre-packed boxes, whereas pantries in rural areas with mostly White populations are more likely to be market-style, letting clients pick and choose what they take. That stems from the pantries’ differing footprints and storage capacities, which is something to address in coming years, he said.

York County completed a hunger mapping project a year or two ago, Brad Peterson said. His organization, Power Packs, partnered with Eastern York School District based on the project’s finding that it was one of the areas with the greatest need.

The Lancaster County Hunger Mapping Project will include the kinds of data used in the York County project, along with supplementary material, Zook told One United Lancaster.

It will be finalized in June or July, with a public release no later than August, he said.