Here are the stories for this week’s Pennsylvania Member Exchange package. If you have any questions, contact the Philadelphia bureau at 215-561-1133.
For use anytime:
Editorials from around Pennsylvania.
For Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018:
ERIE — They are two men who knew Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong better than most. And they lived to talk about their experiences. Leonard Ambrose and Doug Sughrue are unique characters in the convoluted history of the pizza bomber case, which originated 15 years ago with the bombing death of pizza deliveryman Brian Wells after he robbed a bank in Summit Township on Aug. 28, 2003. The two defense lawyers represented Diehl-Armstrong in the bookend stages of her murderous career, in which prosecutors linked the mentally ill Erie resident to the untimely deaths of three men, including Wells and two of her boyfriends. Though Diehl-Armstrong is dead — she died of breast cancer at 68 while at a federal prison in Texas in April 2017 — she lives on through the recollections of people like Ambrose and Sughrue, as well as through projects such as “Evil Genius,” the Netflix docuseries about the pizza bomber case that started streaming in May. By Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News.
EXCHANGE-SURVIVAL FOOD SHOPPING
PITTSBURGH — Avoid brand names. Look for sales, daily. For sandwiches, if there’s cheese, just one slice — and careful with the lunch meat. Not too much milk. Make a pot of spaghetti and hope it lasts you a week. For some families, these might be optional guidelines for saving money. For the Breegle family in Clairton, these rules are a matter of survival. On the surface, Elizabeth Breegle and her two children, a 12-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, might seem eligible for SNAP benefits since the monthly paycheck is $452 below the gross income limits for food stamps. But the family doesn’t qualify for aid because it doesn’t meet another important qualification: the net income limit, a calculation of the gross income minus eligible deductions like rent and heating costs. That puts them in a no man’s land: They don’t qualify for SNAP but still are food insecure — lacking reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Arya Sundaram, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
EXCHANGE-SCHOOL LUNCH DEBTS
BETHLEHEM — When hungry students line up with their lunch trays in school cafeterias next week, they’ll be invited to fill their plates with a heaping hot lunch — even if they owe $50 or $500 on their accounts. That generosity is because of a new state law that bans schools from stigmatizing children for having debt, a practice commonly known as “lunch shaming.” The law, passed late last year, says any communication about money owed on meal accounts has to be done between school officials and parents, and not involve the student. But sometimes parents don’t respond to requests for money owed, local school districts have found. Since the law was passed, meal debt in Lehigh Valley school districts has jumped, particularly in the Bethlehem Area School District. In the past, districts had a limit on how many meals students could receive with a negative account; districts can no longer do that. Jacqueline Palochko, The (Allentown) Morning Call.
PHILADELPHIA — When Victoria Buitron ventured onto her first trail for a New Year’s Day hike a few years ago, she said the ever-changing terrain transformed her. The treadmills she was used to didn’t stand a chance. But Buitron, 29, noticed one aspect of the great outdoors that wasn’t so great. “I’ve hiked just about everywhere in the tri-state area, and it was really rare that I saw someone who looked like me,” said the Connecticut native, who runs the @latinaswhohike Instagram page. The lack of diversity in the outdoors, in the magazines and websites that cover the subject, and even in industry ads for hiking and camping gear has been slowly changing. According to the Kampgrounds of America 2018 North American Camping Report, the number of new Asian, Hispanic, and black campers has been increasing since 2012, and more and more, they’re going outdoors together. Jason Nark, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
LANCASTER — Torah Bontrager says she was about 13 when she read about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. The story of the former slave turned abolitionist electrified her. The oldest child of a strict Amish family in the Midwest, Bontrager recalls being constantly scolded and beaten, leaving her feeling trapped and miserable. She vowed to make a getaway herself, and someday to find a way to help other Amish left behind. At age 15, she slipped away in the dead of night, beginning a sometimes harrowing odyssey that is depicted in her memoir, “An Amish Girl in Manhattan.” It eventually led her to Columbia University, where she earned a philosophy degree. Now 37 and living in New York City, Bontrager earlier this year created the Amish Heritage Foundation, a milestone in fulfilling her childhood vow. Tim Stuhldreher, LNP newspaper.