GEORGETOWN, Del. — What is food insecurity and why are so many Americans experiencing this issue? We live in one of, if not the wealthiest countries in the world. We produce the most secure and most abundant food, yet we still have people going hungry. Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of consistent access or enough healthy food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” The number one issue of food insecurity is not the availability of food in America but rather not having the adequate funds to purchase food. According to a recent USDA report on food insecurity in the US, pre-pandemic there were 37.2 million people including 11.2 million children who did not have adequate access to nutritious foods. Since the pandemic, the number of households affected by food insecurity has doubled. I am alarmed by these pre and post pandemic numbers!
In the current Farm Bill, 80% of funds appropriated are for nutritional programs with the number one program being SNAP (food stamps). Let us look at what SNAP does for those experiencing food insecurity. First, what are the demographics of food stamp recipients? The average gross monthly income per food stamp households is $731; the average net income is $336. The recipients are 37% White, 22% African American, 10% Hispanic, 4% Native American, 2% Asian, and the remaining are all other (unknown race or ethnicity). The SNAP benefits periods range from one month to three years, with the average being six months. Outside of the District of Columbia (our Capital being # 1) with most food stamp recipients living in rural areas.
SNAP is our nation’s most important anti-hunger program. It is one of the few means-tested government programs available to almost all households with low incomes. Research has shown that SNAP reduces poverty and food insecurity, and that over the long term, these impacts lead to improved health and economic outcomes, especially for those who received food stamps as children. Most important during this pandemic SNAP has supported working families and those unable or out of work. Since March, states have been using temporary SNAP flexibility benefit supplements to maintain households with children missing school lunches.
Let us stop and think about this. I do not know about you, but it really pulls on my heart strings to think school children need to go to school to be fed to be educated. In Farm Bill’s past and present the Child Nutrition programs helped prepare our children to succeed in school, ensure our nation’s security, and assist the vulnerable among us who cannot help themselves. That my folks, is money well spent and an existing program we can build on during this pandemic. Senator Pat Roberts, a champion of many of our farm bills stated in a 2018 speech, “Show me a nation that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos. There is no greater threat to national security, than food insecurity.” We must all continue to champion, “giving a hand up” during a time of need.
USDA has been applying multiple approaches to empower state agencies, local food banks and nationwide feeding networks. Through, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA has supported and assisted states and local food banks as the demand has increased to keep communities fed during the corona virus pandemic. The Farmers to Families Food Box Programs has included our producers right here on the great Delmarva. This helps feed hungry families with the added benefit of supporting our local agriculture economy.
Please support our local farm markets, food banks and pantries, churches and the many local restaurants that feed our children and adults in need. Remember our first responders who continue to serve on the front lines as many of us stay at home. My husband always ends our food blessing with, “always be mindful of the needs of others.” Being mindful of the needs of others has never been more important than it is today. Yes, we are still in a pandemic – no time for “Covid 19 Fatigue.” Our farmers must keep producing food for America! That is what they do! THANK YOU, farmers of America…… the country appreciates the essential role you play in keeping our food supply strong, secure, and plentiful. Support your local voice in agriculture – become a Farm Bureau Member today
Editorial written by Jackie King, King Crop Insurance, Inc.
–Jackie King, King Crop Insurance