Just under one in 10 residents in Lebanon County experiences food insecurity, and the county’s children are 71% more likely than adults to be hungry, according to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Those statistics lead off the Food Bank’s Lebanon County Hunger Mapping report, released last week. It takes the same approach as the report on Lancaster County that the Food Bank released in August, exhaustively documenting food insecurity and the area’s charity food system and making recommendations for improvement.
Among the findings for Lebanon County:
- At 9.8%, the food insecurity rate is about 1 percentage point better than Pennsylvania’s rate (but slightly worse than Lancaster County’s rate of 8.7%). In all, about 14,000 of the county’s 144,000 people live in food-insecure households, the nonprofit found.
- Food insecurity rates are 7% in White non-Hispanic households, versus 18% in Black households and 23% in Hispanic households.
- 41% of food pantry visitors surveyed said they regularly experience reduced food intake — a marker of very low food security.
- Food pantry visitors reported long lines and waits, and 6% reported negative experiences such as a rude staff member or volunteer.
Much of Lebanon County’s food insecurity is concentrated in a few communities, the Food Bank found. It recommended “sustained targeted work” to focus on those areas.
Its other recommendations include: Increase efforts to provide “culturally relevant and competent services” to the Latino community; work to reduce transportation barriers and increase delivery options; and improve staff training.
Like its counterpart in Lancaster County, the Lebanon County Hunger Mapping project incorporated household surveys, focus groups, provider surveys and a variety of demographic and other quantitative data.
It was released Thursday at a media event at the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Support for the research came from WellSpan Health and the Community Health Council of Lebanon County.
“For the first time, because of this critical research, we are able to quantify things we have only suspected,” Food Bank Executive Director Joe Arthur said.
The Food Bank said it is in the process of developing hunger maps for all 27 counties in its service area. Besides Lancaster and Lebanon counties, it has covered Cumberland County (in partnership with Dickinson College) and York County (in a project led by The Food Trust).
It anticipates continuing with a report on Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties, to be released this summer, then one on Dauphin County the following winter.