Out Of The Bag: Hunger Means One Jar of Peanut Butter Every Other Month

Pittsburgh Food Pantries - one jar of peanut butter every other month. What would you do?

The goal of Hunger Action Month is to raise awareness about the very real harsh realities of hunger in our communities - and to inspire you, yes you, to take some action. That could be clicking a link to be more informed, organizing a tote and food drive at work or even having a conversation with your own family about the issue in an age-appropriate way.

The basic facts:

  • 1 in 7 people in Pennsylvania are food insecure. 
  • 1 in 5 children in the US are food insecure.
  • More than 140,000 people access food programs every month (in a 12 county area) and that only represents 35% of those who are eligible.

The very harsh reality is that there are people in our neighborhoods who are hungry today - they aren't sure that they'll have dinner or enough dinner or dinner for everyone in the household. 

This past weekend, some troubling realities made the news.

  • Washington County food pantries have cut back to 1 jar of peanut butter every other month. Peanut butter is a staple item because it has so much protein and children can make their own meal. The cost of peanut soared last year after a poor crop. Have you noticed a price increase?
  • Westmoreland County Food Bank reduced food in their packages by 10% during August and September. This translates into 1 package of dry pasta and 1 jar of pasta sauce instead of two of each. That's one to two meals. What would you if you lost 10% of your food staples this month? 
  • Earlier in the summer, North Hills Community Outreach posted the photo showing peanut butter shelves down to a few jars. The twitter post generated some immediate donations, but this photo mirror other food pantries around the region.
  • can of tuna fish is a luxury at food pantries. It was once the backbone donation. Now ... 

Earlier in the month, the US Census data on poverty during 2011 was released and it was a mixed bag. While the number of people living in poverty hasn’t increased, poor families have not rebounded from the depression/recession years as quickly as middle class families who themselves are not exactly bouncing upward. It is also a little troubling that as unemployment is improving, poor families are not improving their overall economic situation. 


Times are tough and as we’ve mentioned, funding for various human services programs has been cut especially in the Pennsylvania State budget. Hunger is a reality for our neighbors, our friends perhaps even our own families over the coming months and year. 

The good news is that there are concrete ways you can help. 

  • Organize a food and tote drive. We have the "How To" info available. Remember that every gently used tote you collect saves the food pantry precious money that they can use to buy food instead of bags. 
  • Advocate through Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's website. Let your elected officials know that hunger is a priority and weigh in on crucial legislation like the Farm Bill and funding for the State Food Purchase Program. 
  • Social media - follow @Tote4Pgh@PghFoodBank @WestmorelandFB@Just Harvest to stay in touch with the latest news and information about hunger in the 12 county region of Southwestern PA. See if your local food pantry is on Twitter - leave us a comment if they are! 

Upcoming Hunger Action Month events & activities for your family

  1. Park(ing) Day Pittsburgh - Friday Sept 21 945 Liberty Avenue (in front of The Toonseum) in the Cultural District 9-3 - explore the irony of so many parking spaces, so few grocery stores in our urban environments and help us expand the concept of "greening" to include reusable tote bags. 
  2. Pgh Mini Maker's Faire -Saturday Sept 22, Children's Museum on the Northside. Learn how we can make and remake our items to preserve our resources and think outside of the bag.
  3. Art Harvest Fall Festival - Sunday September 23, East End Food Cooperative in Point Breeze. Every tote purchased ($1) will be matched by a $.50 donation from the Coop. Enjoy arts, crafts, music, food and more.
  4. Hunger Action Happy Hour - Thursday September 27, The Toonseum from 5-7:30. Admission is a tote with food. Enjoy a limited bar courtesy of Clique Vodka and Bocktown Beer, a traditional Pittsburgh cookie table and check out the Batman exhibit. 
  5. Food Truck Friday Tote Bag Drive - Friday September 28, Bar Marco in the Strip District from 11-3. Enjoy the best of Pittsburgh's Food Trucks - Oh My Grill, Franktuary and more. With a donation of a tote bag, you'll receive discounts and incentives as well as a chance to win a gift card for the Dozen Dessert Truck.
  6. WYEP Tote Drive - Friday September 28, Schenley Plaza in Oakland. Join WYEP for their free Friday concert series and bring a tote bag to be entered in a cool contest. 
  7. Allegheny County Green Festival - Saturday September 29, Hartwood Acres. A family fun event with exhibits, activiteis and information. 10-4.


We'll be collecting food and totes at all of these events. As always, The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project encourages you to think outside of the bag - maybe get creative with collecting peanut butter (Six Sensational Ways to Incorporate Peanut Butter Into a Meal) or create family project (Opportunities for Children and Families to Volunteer.)

Hunger impacts every Patch community in the United States. The statistics may vary a bit, but the fundamental challenges and solutions remain the same - our neighbors are hungry and we have the tools to help. 

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project collects new and gently used tote bags for distribution to the region's food pantries. For more information, visit us online at www.tote4pgh.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tara Smith September 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The tuna finish is very true because of the cost, I helped recruit volunteers for a food pantry in Oakland this past year and also helped give food and that's one of the things I noticed we never got in as much.
Sue Kerr September 19, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thanks for your comment, Tara. I've noticed that the cost of peanut butter has increased, but I haven't monitored canned tuna as closely. Those are two items our project really promotes as a "high value" donation ... and thanks for volunteering with your food pantry. We definitely need folks like you to keep the doors open.
linda simon September 20, 2012 at 02:20 PM
My mother who is 87 yrs young was moved by your article as I read it to her this a.m. she said, "its time for those who have to help those who have not." "this is America, no one should be going hungry."
Sue Kerr September 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Linda, Thank you for sharing your mother's comments AND for reading the article to her. That's very humbling and inspiring. Yes, we have the resources to feed everyone in our nation. Its very tragic that the Pennsylvania hunger rate (1 in 7) is the same as the world (1 in 7) ... Sue
william atwell September 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Here is a thought. Deer & Fish. I grew up in WVa and during lean times (a lot of them) we ate a lot of deer and fish caught from ponds. There is also a lot of farms that belong to old timers who do not farm probably could lease 10 acres cheap. Have people who use the food pantry farm and help grow the food the food pantry uses. Get more hunters and fisherman to donate meat. Sorry but when you are hungry even a possum is good eating. USC township killed 68 deer last year that should be a average of 100 meat per animal that's 6800 pounds. We have a lot of natural resources that we could be using to feed America
Mike Pesta September 21, 2012 at 01:41 AM
I just found this web site, and gotta say, is inspiring! Linda, I agree with your Mother with her comment ." "this is America, no one should be going hungry.". Our Parents understood the value of making sure others are thought of. It was natural to them, and part of everyday life. Now, it seems, with our generation, that we need to have a few special zealous people to sway others into doing the right thing. I am sad by that, but also very happy to meet people like you......who care!
Sue Kerr September 21, 2012 at 02:16 AM
William - that's a great point. i'm not familiar with the specific but i know there are local programs that process venison and distribute to food pantries, especially in the outlying counties. I don't know about fish, but its a great question - I will follow up on that with the Food Banks and make a note to write about in a future post! It seems like a constructive solution to the growing deer population, too.
Sue Kerr September 21, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Mike - thanks for your comments and your kind words. I feel very fortunate in this project that I get to meet inspiring people - like you - every day, people who recognize that taking care of our neighbors is an American value. I hope you'll stop by next week!
william atwell September 21, 2012 at 04:00 AM
@ sue i was raised you don't kill unless you eat it. And I know people will scream i would not eat Bambi. But when you are hungry you will eat it. It is also very healthy for people (obese and heart patients). 1 deer dressed out say at 100 lbs will provide a family of 4 each with a 4 oz serving for approx 31.25 meals so that would be almost 1 year of meat. If you take daily limits on red meat solution. Also if you could get people to donate $50 each goto giant eagle that would buy enough Spagetti for 50 weeks. Right there is 2 meals a week
william atwell September 21, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Now another if you can lease or rent garden space and grow veggies and have people help can you could put a lot of food up cheaply and supply someone with enough can goods to last a year. These are some of things we did growing up poor. I think if people goto food pantry have them help with it. Now if they are disabled or elderly I don't see them sitting in the garden but they could helP can
william atwell September 21, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Another thing see how many people have yards. Have them or get someone to til a 16 square foot section put green beans in. You could blanch and freeze enough green beans to last a year. We as Americans have taken the easy road. And with a little help we could survive easily. If someone has a yard and puts a garden in they could self sustain. A 100 foot row of green beans would or should give you enough beans to fill freezer
william atwell September 21, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Also at sue i know it saddens me my peanut butter for a 5lb can cost over $10! It's robbery. I still eat pb&j everyday for lunch cause I can stretch that can for 4 months! I guess growing up like I did you become afraid to pay for luxory like bologna. I still fill my freezer with deer, turkey, rabbits and squirrel. Drives my family nuts. But it's how I survived.


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