Study: Big increase in U.S. families going hungry
    February 3 2010 by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press

    DALLAS — Food-assistance agencies nationwide serve 1 million more people each week than they did four years ago, according to a national study released Feb. 2.

    The nation’s network of food banks and related agencies provide emergency food to 37 million people — one American in eight — including 14 million children and about 3 million senior adults, the study revealed. That’s a 46 percent increase over the number reported four years ago.

    The Hunger in America 2010 report, a comprehensive four-year study conducted by Mathematic Policy Research for the Feeding America network, provides the first empirical data demonstrating “an undeniable connection between the recent economic recession and hunger,” said Jan Pruitt, president of the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas. “Hunger across our nation is growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.

    More than one household in three served by charitable agencies nationwide experiences “very low food security” — a 54 percent increase in the number of households classified that way compared to 2006.

    About 5.7 million people receive emergency food aid each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen or other charitable agency served by one of the more than 200 food banks associated with the Feeding America network.

    “Clearly, the economic recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance and enrollment in federal nutrition programs,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America, in a news release.

    The report, she continued, “exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in our nation don’t have enough to eat. Millions (of) our clients are families with children finding themselves in need of food assistance for the very first time.”

    Hunger in America 2010 reports a 68 percent increase over 2006 in the number of adults seeking food assistance who have been unemployed for less than one year. Nationally, the number of children served through the Feeding America network increased 50 percent over the same period.

    The report revealed the hard choices Americans affected by recession and unemployment face. More than 46 percent of the households served the Feeding America network reported having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and paying for food.

    Nearly four out of 10 said they had to choose between paying rent or a mortgage and buying food, and more than one-third said they had to choose between transportation and food.

    “It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic necessities,” Escarra said. “These are choices that no one should have to make, but particularly households with children. Insufficient nutrition has adverse effects on the physical, behavioral and mental health, and academic performance of children. It is critical that we ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in America as they truly are our engine of economic growth and future vitality.”

    The study also dispelled some common myths about people seeking food assistance. It showed that in Texas, for instance, 84 percent of the clients of food-assistance programs are U.S. citizens, and 43 percent of the households had at least one working adult.

    Data for the Hunger in America 2010 study was collected from February through June last year. It involved more than 62,000 face-to-face interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance from any of the 63,000 agencies served by a Feeding America network food bank.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.)  
    2/3/2010 8:19:00 AM by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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