Farm Bill Shines Light On Food Insecurity
Legislators tackling the renewal of the farm bill, and within it, the SNAP program, which is the official acronym for food stamps, has been the subject of Congress and in the news lately.
While the bill carries political overtures, its spotlight offers an opportunity for addressing food insecurity by better informing the public about a serious problem too often dismissed, overlooked or underestimated, and through existing outreaches like Mid-South Food Bank, soup kitchens, food pantries and volunteers.
Recently, the USDA study on hungry Americans indicates there are 49 million households in America that are considered food insecure, simply meaning these families are not certain where their next meal will come from, nor do they know if it will be enough to eat. In a 2011 Feeding America survey, 5.1 percent of all U.S. households (6.1 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.
These studies’ findings provide an understanding of the problem on a broad scale. But after a review of local hunger statistics, the struggle becomes personal because we are talking about our neighbors.
Across 31 counties stretching from Lake County, Tenn., to Tupelo, Miss., there are an estimated 416,000 people who are food insecure. Many of these people – an estimated one-third of them - are employed, but their income levels are not high enough to cover necessary food expenses.
Residents of west Tennessee - including Shelby County - north Mississippi and southwest Arkansas should be reminded that one out of every six people, on average, face food insecurity. In fact, two of these states, Mississippi and Arkansas, have the highest food insecurity rates (19.2%) in the nation, according to Feeding America’s study.
Before any one community can solve a widespread problem, its population must be aware it has one. Take the time to find out more about food insecurity by becoming educated on the problem that does not discriminate on age, gender, zip code or race.
Go to feedamerica.org and midsouthfoodbank.org. Then take action: donate, volunteer, and tell others about it.