- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

HONEY BROOK, Pa. (AP) - Snorting in the snow, horses strain to pull Amish buggies up hills, the steaming vapor from their nostrils clouding with car exhaust in the quaint juxtaposition of history and modernity that is Honey Brook.

Here, the rich and cultivated Chester County landscape calls to mind the best of America, where bounty and opportunity are promised to those who work hard - by either 19th- or 21st-century standards.

But sublime vistas obscure dark truths about rural poverty. People are hungry out here: Kensington-hungry, Camden-hungry.

So at noon Wednesday, the Honey Brook Mobile Food Pantry will open, an attempt to slake need in a place that looks too pretty for privation.

While some communities in the Philadelphia region have objected to pantries in their midst, Honey Brook appears to be welcoming this one with an enthusiasm inspired by Mennonite precept and country courtesy.

It can’t happen too soon.

“People are stuck,” said Dawn Schell, a former teacher who runs an outreach center to help the poor of Honey Brook. “Lack of food is a huge thing. More and more families here are needing help. But they’re sort of giving up hope. We want this pantry to restore it.”

Route 322 runs 494 miles from Cleveland to Atlantic City, crossing the Appalachian Mountains in Western Pennsylvania.

The origin of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty can be traced to President John F. Kennedy’s identifying desperate need in the Appalachian states - Pennsylvania included.

Decades later, problems persist. Although Route 322 traverses Chester County, one of the richest counties in the United States, it remains a hunger highway, thick with the traffic of Honey Brook residents seeking food.

Day after day, they travel the 11 miles to Downingtown, where the state-of-the-art Lord’s Pantry food cupboard beckons people anxious to get meals onto the table and into their children’s stomachs.

“The problem is, the Lord’s Pantry can only serve so many,” said Phoebe Kitson-Davis, program manager of the Chester County Food Bank in Exton. The food bank, she said, provides hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to pantries, from kale to locally shot deer meat, “in a county of haves and have-nots.”

Kitson-Davis was among the group of planners from the nonprofit and business worlds, led by Kenneth Ross, former Lord’s Pantry board chairman, who created the Honey Brook pantry after seeing that many Honey Brook residents were making their way to Downingtown to seek food at the Lord’s Pantry.

As well-off as the county is, poverty there grew from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 7.4 percent in 2012, census figures show. By comparison, Philadelphia poverty is 26.9 percent.

In Honey Brook, with an 11 percent poverty rate, a third of public school students are identified as low-income, Kitson-Davis said. Around 40 percent of the township’s residents earn less than $50,000 annually, she added. Most of the poor are white, she said.

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