Many Families Still Struggling to Put Food on the Table

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A new study from the USDA shows that across the country the recession is still having an impact on many families trying to put food on the table. The number of households considered “food insecure” remains at record-high levels — approximately 1 in 7. As NPR’s The Salt blog reports, it’s an ongoing problem that is particularly acute for families headed by single mothers.

“Before the recession, about 1 in 10 households had a problem getting enough to eat. But in 2008, things got a lot worse. And it’s pretty much stayed that way ever since. The Agriculture Department today said that almost 18 million households had trouble putting food on the table last year, and that in about 7 million of those households, people didn’t have enough to eat. …

Rhonda Chafin, who runs the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, says she’s already seeing the impact firsthand. ‘We’re serving more people, and we have less food, she says.”

The report is based on a survey that asks heads of households a series of questions, including whether they have ever run out of food without having money to buy more and whether they’ve ever had to skip meals. Over 57 percent of families who reported being food insecure also reported that they received assistance from government programs.

One in 5 children lives in a household that doesn’t get enough food. Dr. Mariana Chilton, associate professor at Drexel University School of Public Health and co-principal investigator for Children’s HealthWatch, told Greg Kaufman at The Nation that she was concerned about “the impact on young children who go without food as they lay the foundation for their health; cognitive, social and emotional development; and future potential.”

“’There are lifelong implications,’ said Chilton. ‘Children in food insecure households have more health problems, are more likely to be hospitalized and have developmental delays. Young kids who are food insecure may arrive at kindergarten unprepared and never catch up with their peers.’ “…

“She noted, however, that the summer drought is expected to drive food prices higher, there is no national plan to end hunger, and the strongest defense against hunger — food stamps (or, SNAP) — is under attack in Congress.”

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