September 7, 2011

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported today that for the third consecutive year, 1 in 6 Americans live in households that are food insecure.

Among the nearly 49 million Americans facing hunger are more than 16 million children. Five million households experiencing food insecurity include at least one senior. The USDA collected the data in December, 2010.

"Behind these numbers are the faces of 49 million men, women and children who struggle to find enough to eat," said Vicki Escarra, CEO of Feeding America."Millions of people who are food insecure are also experiencing unemployment, which remains at historically high levels. As Congress and the Administration look for ways to reduce the federal deficit, it is more critical than ever to protect funding for nutrition programs that provide the first line of defense against hunger in America."

The USDA released a study earlier this year, which found that provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) helped reduce food insecurity among people receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, when compared to low-income households that are not eligible for SNAP benefits.

SNAP is the nation's largest nutrition program, now serving more than 45 million low-income people. Seventy nine percent of the households receiving SNAP include a child, elderly, or disabled person.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to act this afternoon on legislation funding for several critical nutrition programs for FY2012. The House has already approved legislation that would significantly weaken the nutrition safety net.

  • More than 20% would be cut from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provide food and funds to food banks.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be cut by nearly 20%.
  • Up to 350,000 women, infants, and children would lose benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
  • Nearly 150,000 low-income seniors would lose benefits from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP).
    Last spring, Feeding America conducted a research study to reveal food insecurity rates at the county level. Map the Meal Gap showed that hunger exists in every county in the nation, ranging from 5 percent in Steele County, ND to 38 percent in Wilcox County, AL.

"The pervasiveness of hunger requires a strong partnership between federal nutrition programs and the charitable distribution system to feed people in need," said Escarra." While our nation faces many serious challenges today, the costs of children growing up hungry and seniors spending a lifetime working hard and retiring hungry are great. Hunger is simply one battle we cannot afford to lose."

For real stories about hunger, see Daniel (child), Steve and Judy (seniors), Danielle, Lillie and Alex (African-American), and Luz (Latino).

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