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Hunger Statistics


Food Insecurity | Emergency Food Assistance Participation | 2010 Food Bank Census Key Findings
Longitudal Results | Definitions

Food Hardship
In January 2010, the Food Research and Action Center released Food Hardship: A Closer Look At Hunger, an analysis of survey data collected as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The study measured “food hardship” in individuals.  Food Hardship is defined as the lack of sufficient funds within the past twelve months to buy food for themselves or their families. 


The Food Hardship Data for 2008-2009 Shows:

  • 16% of respondents in Pennsylvania experienced food hardship in 2009.
  • Roughly 1 in 5 households with children experience food hardship in Pennsylvania. This is equal to 22.4% of Pennsylvania households with children.
  • In the Metropolitan Statistical Area of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, 16.7% of respondents reported food hardship in 2008-2009 ranking the area 64th out of 100 of the largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
  • The food hardship percentages by Congressional District within our service area in 2008-2009 are:
    • 10th Congressional District (Pike and Wayne Counties): 15.6% of respondents experienced food hardship
    • 11th Congressional District (Carbon and Monroe Counties): 19.7% of respondents experienced food hardship
    • 15th Congressional District (Lehigh and Northampton Counties): 15.4% of respondents experienced food hardship

Please note that this data is sourced by the Food Research and Action Center. Please visit for additional information about hunger and food hardship throughout the United States.


Food Insecurity

The USDA completes a report each year to measure food insecurity within the United States. Food insecurity is determined by a series of questions that measures the extent to which an individual’s access to adequate food is limited during the year by lack of money or other resources.


According to the USDA’s report: Household Food Security in the United States, 2008:

  • 11.2% of all households in Pennsylvania experienced food insecurity from 2006-2008. That’s a 14% increase from the 2003-2005 report showing that 9.8% of Pennsylvania households were food insecure.
  • The 2006-2008 study also showed that 4.2% of Pennsylvania households experienced very low food security.

Please note this data is sourced by the United States Department of Agriculture. Please visit for more information.


Emergency Food Assistance Participation

Each March, Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania tracks the number of participants served by the member agencies of the Food Bank. This data provides an indication of the number of people we serve in any given month.


2010 Food Bank Census Key Findings

  • In March of 2010, Second Harvest served a total of 62,823 individuals through a system of more than 200 member agencies. Of that, 46,706 individuals were served through the emergency food assistance system.
  • Emergency food assistance providers reported a 29% increase in the participation from 2008-2009. This drastic increase is most likely explained by the worsening economy.
  • Second Harvest member agencies reported a 13% drop in participation from 2005-2006. This decrease is most likely to be a result of a change in reporting by the soup kitchens rather than a change in need.

Longitudinal Results


All Agencies1

Percent Increase/Decrease Emergency Food Assistance Providers2 Percent Increase/Decrease
2002 42,621   21,645  
2003 43,654 2% 24,246 12%
2004 49,865 14% 26,501 9%
2005 48,951 -2% 32,538 23%
2006 42,671 -13% 27,057 -17%
2007 43,744 3% 30,002 11%
2008 49,522 13% 35,388 18%
2009 61,307 23% 45,687 29%
2010 62,823 2.5% 46,706 2%


  1. The numbers listed in the “All Agencies” column represent the total number of individuals served through Second Harvest’s two types of member agencies: emergency food assistance providers and non-emergency food assistance providers. Emergency food assistance providers can be defined as charitable feeding programs whose participants are typically in short-term need of assistance.  Examples include pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Non-emergency food assistance providers consist of charitable feeding programs that have a primary purpose other than emergency food distribution. Examples include residential programs, child care facilities, senior centers, etc.

  2. The numbers listed in the “Emergency Food Assistance Providers” column represent the number of individuals use who only emergency food assistance providers (pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, etc).