13.3 Percent of Households in Pennsylvania Struggle to Afford Enough Food

New report shows uptick in hunger nationally

PITTSBURGH, PA — Despite an improving economy, 13.3 percent of households in Pennsylvania reported that they struggled to buy enough food for themselves and their families during 2016–2017, according to a new report released yesterday by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC, a national anti-hunger advocacy group).

How Hungry is America? provides data on food hardship — the inability to afford enough food— nationally, for every state, the District of Columbia, and 108 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) across the country. The report is based on 337,690 interviews in 2016–2017.

Nationally, the report found that after several years of decline, the food hardship rate for all households increased from 15.1 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. The food hardship rate for households with children is 1.3 times higher than for households without children.

The report finds:

  • Pennsylvania ranked 34th in the nation for food hardship (1 being the worst), with roughly 1 in 7 households reporting they had trouble putting food on the table.
  • For Pittsburgh the food hardship rate was 12 percent in 2016–2017, giving it a ranking of 89 among 108 MSAs.
  • The food hardship rate in PA is considerably higher in households with children, 16.7 percent compared to 11.7 percent, respectively.
  • Pennsylvania had the 12th highest ratio of food hardship rates of households with children to households without children.
  • Pittsburgh had the 30th highest ratio among 108 MSAs of food hardship rates of households with children to households without children.

“This report makes clear that hunger is still unacceptably high, particularly for children.,” said Emily Cleath, communications coordinator for Just Harvest. “Certainly progress is being made in the fight against hunger locally and statewide. But it is continually threatened; there are efforts underway now in Harrisburg and D.C. to drastically reduce access to SNAP, the nation’s cornerstone food assistance program. It’s also important to keep in mind what averages conceal: huge disparities. There are significantly higher rates of hunger and poverty in communities across Allegheny County that have been starved of resources for decades.”

The Northeast has the third highest food hardship rate of the United States’ seven regions identified in this report, following the Southeast and Southwest. When comparing food hardship rates for households with children to those without, the Northeast region (in which Pennsylvania is included) had the biggest gap, with the households with children rate being 1.5 times higher.


About the Report
How Hungry is America? focuses on data for the nation for 2017 and for every state and the District of Columbia, and 108 MSAs for 2016–2017. The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing hundreds of households daily since January 2008. The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” A “yes” answer to this question is considered to signal that the household experienced food hardship. FRAC uses the phrase “food hardship” to avoid confusion with the annual Census Bureau/U.S. Department of Agriculture survey and analysis that produces “food insecurity” numbers, but the concepts are comparable.



JUST HARVEST addresses hunger in Allegheny County at its root – economic injustice – by improving public policy and programs, boosting food access, and building community power.


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