Friday, April 10, 2015

In PA, One in Seven Risks Going Hungry

Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)


PHOTO: A new report from the Food Research and Action Center says slightly more than 15 percent of Pennsylvanians risk going hungry and don't always have enough money to buy food. Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
PHOTO: A new report from the Food Research and Action Center says slightly more than 15 percent of Pennsylvanians risk going hungry and don't always have enough money to buy food. Photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - One Pennsylvanian in seven risks going hungry, according to a new report, and that number is higher in places such as Philadelphia.

According to the national analysis from the Food Research and Action Center, slightly more than 15 percent of Pennsylvanians live with food hardship and one in six - about 17 percent - of Philadelphia residents live with the threat of hunger.

Kathy Fisher, policy manager for the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, said the slowly improving economy hasn't really changed that picture.

"To say that it's a percentage or two better, certainly that helps," she said, "but the vast majority of those people who were struggling in 2008, 2009 are still struggling."

The research from FRAC - titled "How Hungry is America?" - tallied how many Americans couldn't afford to buy food at some time during 2014. Nationally, that number is slightly more than 17 percent - about one in six.

The Republican-controlled Congress is threatening to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - food stamps - as a budget-cutting measure. Fisher said she thinks it's a terrible idea. While economic growth eventually might bring more jobs and better wages to the state, she said that doesn't mean much to people who are older or disabled, or to children - the groups who depend most heavily on the safety net.

"It's not as if the seniors are going to go out and get work," she said. "And SNAP - food stamps - is certainly the nation's No. 1 defense against hunger."

Fisher said SNAP was cut last year, and has been a regular target for reductions for several years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, SNAP has very low rates of waste, fraud and abuse.

The report is online at frac.org.

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