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  • Writer's pictureHunger-Free Pennsylvania

United Way of PA’s COVID-19 Survey Results Show Food Insecurity Continues to Challenge Families

Statewide network of food banks seeks additional funding to meet need

HARRISBURG, Pa. (June 17, 2021) --- Results from United Way of Pennsylvania’s second COVID-19 impact survey show more than 1.3 million (27%) Pennsylvania households are one emergency away from financial crisis, and food insecurity is among the chief challenges.

United Way of Pennsylvania’s latest survey focuses on the states ALICE families. ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) families have income above the Federal Poverty Level, but struggle to afford the bare minimum cost of basic household needs. Many do not qualify for assistance and often do not earn enough to cover basic expenses such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology.

  • According to the survey, 44% of respondents received food from a food pantry or food bank.

  • Respondents with households below the ALICE threshold report being unable to afford food at a rate of 48%, nearly three times that of households above the ALICE threshold.

  • When asked what COVID-19 issues is your houtsehold most concerned about over the next two months, 39% of ALICE families and 10% of non-ALICE families said providing enough food for the household.

  • Since March 1, 48% of ALICE families and 17% of non-ALICE families reported not being able to find food.

“These numbers simply reinforce what we have been seeing on the front lines at food banks across the commonwealth, with more people in need and many people turning to us for food assistance for the first time ever,” said Sheila Christopher, Executive Director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania.

In April, Hunger-Free Pennsylvania and Feeding Pennsylvania reported that their statewide network of regional food banks distributed more than 262 million pounds of food over a 52-week period last year to meet the surging demand among individuals and families who were affected by the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.

By comparison, that annual total was degrees more than the 164 million pounds of food the network distributed during the same period in 2019. The organizations also handed out 12.4 million boxes with nutritious food staples in 2020.

More Pennsylvanians are turning to their local food banks for help --- some for the first time. The total number of people served totaled 29.6 million in 2020 compared to 13.3 million in 2019. (These numbers reflect total visits, meaning more people are relying on food banks for sustained assistance rather than stopgap, temporary aid.)

Both organizations are seeking an increase in the governor’s 2021-22 General Fund budget for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), two of the state’s most critical anti-hunger programs for purchasing and distributing food to low-income families and seniors. The proposed budget includes level funding of $18.188 million for SFPP and a $1 million increase to $2.5 million for PASS.

“Food banks simply cannot go back to pre-pandemic funding levels,” said Jane Clements, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania. “Far too many Pennsylvanians remain challenged by hunger. Demand is up an average of 20 percent for food assistance so far in 2021.”

Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania are seeking $24 million for SFPP and $5 million for PASS in the state’s 2021-22 fiscal year budget.

“More than 40 percent of low- and middle-income households who responded to United Way’s survey report ongoing financial instability, which affects their ability to afford food, as all are experiencing increased costs for groceries. Investing more state and federal resources in the food safety net is an effective way to help Pennsylvania’s pandemic recovery,” said Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania.

United Way of Pennsylvania conducted its first COVID-19 impact survey in August 2020 to gather data regarding the experiences of Pennsylvanians six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. The second survey covers those living amid the COVID-19 pandemic for one-year. Between March 15, 2021, and April 5, 2021, more 2,700 people living in Pennsylvania responded to the survey.

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MEDIA CONTACTS: Jane Clements, Executive Director

Feeding Pennsylvania

P: 570-867-3044 | E:

Sheila Christopher, Executive Director

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

P: 724-941-1472 | E:

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About Feeding Pennsylvania:

Feeding Pennsylvania is a collaborative effort of nine Feeding America-affiliated food banks in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The mission of Feeding Pennsylvania is to promote and aid our member food banks in securing food and other resources to reduce hunger and food insecurity in our communities and across Pennsylvania and to provide a shared voice on the issues of hunger and food access within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information about Feeding Pennsylvania, please visit, connect with us on Facebook at, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @FeedingPA.

About Hunger-Free Pennsylvania:

Hunger-Free Pennsylvania comprises a network of food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, charities and other hunger relief organizations working together to end hunger in Pennsylvania. The network has 18 members serving all 67 counties. Learn more about Hunger-Free Pennsylvania online:, or via Facebook:



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