Lancaster County may be on its way to becoming the first American county to ensure sustainable access to three healthy meals a day for all of its residents.
For the past several years, Hunger-Free Lancaster County, a group of more than 40 business, faith-based, school, non-profit and public-sector organizations, has been working on what its chair, former state senator and current Blackford Ventures, LLC CEO Mike Brubaker, calls a “100% solvable problem” – how to build a food security network that can expand and contract as needed to provide enough healthy food for everyone.
Lancaster General Health is a founding partner of Hunger-Free Lancaster County and its director of community health, Alice Yoder, sits on the group’s board of directors.
Issuing its first annual report card last fall, the group reported some notable accomplishments:
A remarkable 194,917 additional school breakfasts were served in Lancaster County in the 2015-16 school year for a total of 2,042,193, with many schools adopting effective alternative and kid-friendly strategies such “Breakfast After the Bell,” breakfast smoothies and “Grab and Go” kiosks;
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank grew by 28% the amount of fresh produce, dairy and protein it distributed in Lancaster, a whopping 1,597,024 pounds of wholesome food; and
The Lutheran Camping Corporation of Central Pennsylvania established a 40-acre “Growing Project” at the Wittel Farm Retreat in Elizabethtown, dedicated to growing fresh vegetables to donate to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the Lancaster County Council of Churches. Using all volunteer labor, the group harvested enough produce for thousands of meals in its first year.
In addition, the coalition acts as the “Food Security Committee” for the Lancaster Mayor’s Committee to Combat Poverty and is a partner with Governor Tom Wolf on his Administration’s Blueprint to Fight Hunger and its Setting the Table: A Blueprint to End Hunger in Pennsylvania.
HFLC has three committees:
Schools focuses on school-based and summer meal programs;
Safety Net works to facilitate easier access to various food-related benefits, including SNAP (food stamps), WIC (for pregnant women and children under six) and various farmers markets and fresh produce voucher programs; and
Service oversees outreach to the agriculture community, encourages coordination with community meals and food safety and helps build awareness of the move for food security.
For more information on this remarkable group and learn how you can help, visit its website at http://www.hungerfreelancaster.org/, its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/hungerfreelancaster/ and follow it on Twitter @HungerFreeLanCo.