The face of hunger is often difficult to recognize.  As Americans living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it is all too easy to think that hunger exists “over there” someplace in the distance.  Yet, the sad reality is that hunger exists in our very own community . . . in our own back yard.

As many of you know, the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania provides food assistance by distributing food to our member agencies who, in turn, give that food to families and individuals in need.  In 2010, our member agencies served 63,000 people each month throughout our service area of Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Wayne counties. That’s a huge number to think about: 63,000 people who need extra help getting food every month in only six counties in Pennsylvania.  That’s an increase of over 13,000 people per month since  the recession began to worsen in 2008.  Hunger is an often unseen problem that plagues our communities, our nation, and our world.

At Second Harvest, our mission goes beyond food assistance; we are also here to uncover where hunger exists in our community, and why.  We then use that information to educate community members, activists, business leaders, and government officials to make systemic changes that will eliminate hunger and its causes.  We’re working to put ourselves out of business by completely eliminating hunger in Northeast Pennsylvania.  That’s why the Second Harvest Food Bank regularly conducts a large-scale survey research project of the Lehigh Valley’s emergency food assistance participants.  The 2011 Hunger Study begins today.  For the next several months, Second Harvest staff members and a number of dedicated volunteers will visit pantries and soup kitchens to talk to our participants and identify what challenges are contributing to food insecurity in our community.

As activists, we try to give a voice to the voiceless.  The Hunger Study gives many low-income people the opportunity to share their story.  We will then use the data that we collected to educate the community about local hunger and food insecurity in a personal and meaningful way.  We hope that this information will mobilize community and business leaders, and elected officials to join the fight against hunger and help us increase access to nutritious food for everyone in our community-regardless of economic status.

Stay tuned to this blog and visit our website and our Facebook page to hear updates as the project unfolds.