Opinion-The LNP Editorial Board | September 25, 2016

Hunger-Free Lancaster County marked its first year on Wednesday by reporting progress toward its goal of ensuring access to three healthy meals a day for everyone in the county by 2018. A coalition of business, faith-based, school, nonprofit and public-sector organizations, Hunger-Free Lancaster County said that 194,917 additional school breakfasts were served in Lancaster County in the 2015-16 school year for a total of 2,042,193; 20,482 more meals were served this summer over the previous year and at five more sites; and the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank grew by 28 percent the amount of fresh produce, dairy and protein it distributed in Lancaster. Also on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled “Setting the Table: Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA,” an effort to examine how to alleviate hunger in the commonwealth.

Many of us don’t need to think twice about buying a loaf of whole-grain bread at Central Market, or a bagful of fresh produce at any of the amazing farmers markets in Lancaster County. We might even pick up bouquets of locally grown zinnias to grace our dining tables.

There are others of us, however, who can’t spare the money to buy the bread and vegetables, let alone the flowers. They are working hard — sometimes, at two jobs — and trying desperately to keep a roof over their family’s heads. The utility bills and the rent must be paid.

So food comes last on the list of priorities, says Kim McDevitt, executive director of the Power Packs Project, a nonprofit that helps parents provide healthy meals over weekends when the school breakfast and lunch programs are unavailable to their children.

Food or housing: It’s an awful choice to have to make. And amid the the bounty of Lancaster County farms, it seems almost impossible to believe people here are faced with that choice.

But there are, and organizations such as the Power Packs Project and other organizations in Hunger-Free Lancaster County are working to erase what is called “food insecurity” — the lack of guaranteed access to regular and nourishing meals.

The problem isn’t just confined to Lancaster County, of course. State Health Secretary Karen Murphy noted last week that while “Pennsylvania is a world leader in agricultural production, 1.7 million Pennsylvanians struggle to secure enough food to feed themselves and their families.”

The Wolf administration’s “Blueprint for a Hunger-Free PA” will require state agencies to coordinate their efforts to alleviate food insecurity in the commonwealth. We hope it succeeds.

If Hunger-Free Lancaster County is to succeed, its members — the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the Lancaster County Council of Churches and the Community Action Program of Lancaster County and others — need our support.

In an op-ed published in LNP last week, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and Hunger-Free Lancaster County chair and former Republican state Rep. Mike Brubaker urged all of us to “jump into this fight feet first. We want to see you donate, volunteer, lead and innovate.”

Hunger-Free Lancaster County’s website details the many ways in which you can help: Go gleaning — collecting leftover crops — at a local farm; prepare and serve a community meal with the Lancaster County Council of Churches; or donate to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank or another food pantry (but first check the website’s list of the best items to donate).

One particularly cool suggestion: Donate your extra produce to any of the local food pantries. (A link to them is on the website.)

We’re into autumn now; it’s apple and pumpkin season. If you’re among those who take the fruits of this season for granted, please consider helping those for whom nothing — not even the next meal — is a sure thing.