Higher food prices are hitting as several York County organizations are working harder to feed more people.
Leaders of the Catholic Harvest Food Pantry, Salvation Army and York County Food Alliance say they're trying to reduce the number of local residents who have food insecurity.
Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a hunger crisis in which millions of Americans don't have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Nearly 12 percent of York County residents — more than 50,000 people — are food insecure, according to Feeding Pennsylvania, a food bank in Harrisburg.
Of those residents, 47 percent qualify for the U.S. food stamp program, SNAP, which is sustaining cuts.
Funding cuts: U.S. lawmakers voted last fall to reduce funding to the program, giving the average recipient about $30 less a month.
"We're really concerned about this. Food stamps are being cut and food prices are going up. We have a greater need for food than food is available," said Metta Barbour, chairwoman of the York County Food Alliance.
The alliance is working to increase the amount of food donated to local pantries and charities. It's also communicating with local grocery stores to make sure they're aware food-producing plants and seeds can be purchased with SNAP benefits, she said.
"We're encouraging local residents to grow their own food. We're trying to get people interested in growing vegetables and nutritious foods. It won't solve the problem, but it will help," Barbour said.
It's especially a challenge in the city, which has the highest food-insecure population. Many residents there don't have enough room to plant a garden and don't know much about container gardening, said Kris Pollick, director of Catholic Harvest.
"We're trying to encourage our local gardeners to plant an extra row and donate it to us," she said.
The effort: Catholic Harvest serves 700 families a month, and Pollick knows many more local families are struggling.
"We know 1 in 6 people here don't have enough food to feed their family," she said.
Families can receive food from Catholic Harvest once a month, and the agency provides about a week's worth of groceries, Pollick said.
"Most of our families are working, but they're just not making enough money to make ends meet," she said.
The Salvation Army is also trying to fill empty plates.
The nonprofit served 2,200 local families last year and is seeking food donations to offer more assistance this year.
"We can always use more. The more food we have, the more generous we can be. It could be the difference of giving a family two bags of food instead of one," said George Lenkner, business manager for Salvation Army in York.
As at Catholic Harvest, families can receive food from the Salvation Army once every 30 days.
Most families ask for food only in emergency situations.
Many families, such as those receiving lower SNAP payments, make adjustments.
But some cannot, Lenkner said.
"Some depend more on food pantries. There's always a steady flow here," he said.
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