According to data released in a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, the most at-risk families are still finding it difficult to feed its members, while the overall number of households considered “food insecure” remained flat with 2010’s numbers.
The report, “Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2011,” illuminated several trends in the hunger and poverty indicators, noting that 17.1 percent of all American households — some 17.9 million — were deemed to be food insecure, while a further 6.8 million households had very low food security.
Overall, 50.1 million people lived in food-insecure households in 2011, and according to some, those numbers will rise if the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture goes through with plans to trim millions from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP.
The USDA defines households with very low food security as those that experience at least seven months of difficulties in feeding household members, with those difficulties recurring, sometime on a weekly basis.
“Increases in the prevalence of very low food security were greatest for women living alone, Black households and households with annual incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line,” the report found. “For households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black and Hispanic households, rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and other outlying areas around large cities.”
The report also shows the rate of very low food security is highest (against the national average) in African-American and Hispanic households, with 25.1 percent of African-American households experiencing very low food security, while Hispanic household have a 26.2 percentage rate.
According to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Hunger, hundreds of thousands of households in Pennsylvania could potentially be labeled as “food insecure.”
‘The report tells us that nearly 640,000 households in Pennsylvania have struggled to put food on the table, a clear sign that we are far from recovering from this recession,” said Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Carey Morgan, noting that 1.8 million Pennsylvanians now take part in SNAP. “It’s unthinkable that some members of Congress want to slash billions from SNAP, which will make it even harder for people to afford the food that they need.”
Morgan referred to the recent decisions made by the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, which will potentially trim $16 million from the SNAP program. The hunger coalition estimated that 130,000 low-income Pennsylvanians will be disqualified from SNAP if these cuts go through.
“After a recession that devastated so many people living in our country, most Americans now understand how crucial our safety net is in helping people get back on their feet,” Morgan said. “It’s time that our elected officials woke up to the fact, too, and did more to address hunger in our nation.”
Locally, a handful of elected officials have recently brought attention to the hunger and SNAP issues, with U.S. Representative Bob Brady, state Representative Tony Payton, Senator Shirley Kitchen and other politicians took part in the “Food Stamp Challenge,” shedding light on the difficulties at-risk families face. Those politicians vowed to shop and eat on the average food stamp benefit — $5 a day.
And the non-profit Feeding Children Everywhere recently delivered on its springtime promise to supply the school district with 100,000 meals to distribute to needy families with children in the district.
“I want to demonstrate just how hard it is for struggling families to feed their families day after day,” Brady said when taking the Food Stamp Challenge last April. “I know that $5 a day isn’t enough [for] three square meals. I’m going to try to make it stretch, but I don’t think $35 would be enough for a week’s worth of meals that are healthy, nutritious and not just filling.”