UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The biggest secret about food insecurity in Centre County is a simple one — it exists.
"People assume it’s not happening here, that it’s not happening in State College, but it is,” said Allayn Beck, executive director of the State College Food Bank. “We hear from teachers who tell us, ‘I’m paying for food for my students out of my own pocket. What can I do?’ It is real. It’s happening here.”
Food insecurity impacts a wide range of people, for a wide range of reasons. Beck sees everyone from senior citizens living on fixed incomes to people who work full-time and, through no fault of their own, still have to choose between paying bills or buying food. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, Beck and other service providers are continuing to see new people facing food insecurity across Centre County, often for the first time.
Millie, a local community member who asked to be identified by her first name only, is one of these people. She recently stopped by a food distribution at the Bellefonte YMCA, where volunteers loaded her trunk with frozen chicken, milk and fruit. Millie said she lives on a fixed income and must carefully balance buying food with heating her home during the winter and the costs associated with bills from medical procedures.
“It’s rough, especially around the holidays,” she said. “I have nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews, and I want to be able to give them all Christmas presents. So, having something like this helps. It really does.”
That’s why the Centre County United Way and its partner agencies — like the State College Food Bank and the YMCA of Centre County — are working tirelessly with the goal of no one going hungry in Centre County.