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Food Hardship in America: A FRAC Study

Posted by Elyssa Koidin  

01:36 PM Aug 12, 2011

Credit: Photos by David Paul Morris / Special to The Chronicle

Earlier today our colleagues at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released a report on food hardship in America. Looking at data from the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll, they found that in virtually every Congressional District in the country food hardship can be found, and that nearly 1 in 4 U.S. households with children reported an inability to afford enough food.

FRAC and Gallup determined the definition of “food hardship” by asking “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” If a person answered “yes”, FRAC considered this evidence of food hardship. This is similar to a poll conducted by the Census Bureau to determine “food insecurity.”FRAC’s report found that nationally in 2010 the food hardship rate for households without children was 14.9%. For households with children the food hardship rate was 23.4%.

The top ten states (including D.C.) with the highest food hardship rate for households with children were (in order): D.C., Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Their food hardship rate ranged from 28.8%-37.4%.  “Even in the state with the lowest rate, North Dakota, fully 15.3% of households with children suffered from food hardship. What this means is that every state has an extraordinarily serious problem of food insecurity in households with children. Even in North Dakota, more than one in seven such households were affected.”

The report also breaks the food hardship rate down by Congressional District. The Congressional District median rate for food hardship among households with children is 24%. The rate went up in most Congressional Districts from previous years and virtually every Congressional District had more than 1 in 10 respondents in households with children reporting food hardship. As the report states, “The districts are: from all geographic areas of the nation; rural, urban, and suburban; represented by Republicans and Democrats. They include districts represented by leaders, key committee chairs and ranking minority members, and other prominent members of the House from both parties.”

These statistics prove that need for food and nutrition assistance is still very high. Although economists state that the recession is technically over, families are still struggling and our nation might not have reached the depth of the current hunger situation in this country. A rise in gas prices, instability in the job or stock market, or a draught can greatly affect the food hardship rate. Which is why as we discuss deficit and budget reduction proposals over the next few months, lawmakers must protect programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), WIC, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP, deliver food packages to low-income older Americans), and school feeding programs from massive funding reductions and structural changes. These programs should be strengthened, not weakened. For many families, nutrition and food assistance is the only thing preventing them from falling deeper in to hunger and poverty. The FRAC study demonstrates that this is a problem in every part of the country and therefore every lawmaker should be concerned with their constituents’ inability to readily provide their families with food.

For more information on this issue please contact Elyssa Koidin. The JCPA has a new newsletter, A View from the Capital, which will provide legislative updates on poverty issues. To be added to the list, please contact Elyssa.

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