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Tag: food insecurity

Poll: Nearly A Quarter Of American Households Face Food Insecurity

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Like the coronavirus pandemic, food insecurity continues even when it recedes from the headlines. A new poll finds 23 percent of people in the U.S. haven't been able to get enough to eat or haven't been able to get the kinds of foods they want. More than half of those food insecure people struggled to access all of the government or nonprofit assistance that should have been available to them, and 21 percent said they hadn't been able to get any aid.

That means both people going hungry—maybe eating just once a day—and people unable to get the fresh, healthy foods they would want for themselves and their children.

In the new poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, respondents were very clear about what would help them have enough healthy food: more money. Half said extra money was necessary to pay for food or bills, and another 39 percent said it would be helpful but not necessary. Other response options offered in the poll—reliable or accessible transportation, enough free food to last a few days, a free prepared meal with no prior notice, and meals that are delivered by a community service—drew well under half of people saying they were necessary, though in all cases a large majority said they would be either necessary or helpful.

Things have recently gotten worse for many people with the cutoff of expanded federal unemployment benefits. An expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotment expires on September 30, though it will be partially offset by a permanent increase in nutrition assistance coming into effect on October 1 after the Biden administration changed how the government estimates the cost of a healthy diet.

But even with the expanded unemployment insurance and added SNAP benefits, food insecurity was high. In fact, it was high before the pandemic. While food insecurity didn't rise overall in the population during the pandemic, it did rise for some groups, including households with children and Black households. Food insecurity for families with children has risen, from 6.5 percent in 2019 to 7.6 percent in 2020. Among Black households, food insecurity went from 19.1 precent in 2019 to 21.7 percent in 2020.

The expanded child tax credit is now helping many of these families—and it needs to be extended in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. As Paul Krugman recently wrote in The New York Times, the lifelong damage of childhood poverty is such that any money spent to keep kids out of poverty is the fiscally responsible thing to do (to say nothing of the moral stakes).

"Lifting children out of poverty is every bit as real an investment as repairing roads and bridges. Indeed, the evidence for a big economic payoff to spending on children is a lot stronger than the evidence for high returns to spending on physical infrastructure (although we should be doing that too)," Krugman wrote. "In fact, the returns to aiding children are so high that the cost would probably be minimal even in narrowly fiscal terms—because helping children grow up into more productive, healthier adults would eventually mean higher tax receipts and lower medical outlays. Unlike tax cuts for the rich, aid to poor children would largely pay for itself."

Politicians who don't want to expand aid to children tell on themselves: It's not about the money. They just want to punish poor people.

Alarming Report Sheds Light On Concentrated Poverty Among U.S. Students

A new report released Tuesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals an alarming trend of concentrated poverty in schools across the nation.

Using data collected through U.S. schools’ community eligibility program — a school lunch and breakfast initiative that provides students free meals if they attend schools in high-poverty areas — CBPP finds that over 3,000 school districts meet the requirements necessary for eligibility in the program. To put it more simply: Over 3,000 school districts encompass areas of concentrated high poverty.

Most disturbing is that over 28,000 schools throughout the nation meet these requirements, too. As CBPP’s Robert Greenstein reports, at least 60 percent of students in more than 8,000 of those qualifying schools are labeled as “Identified Students,” or low-income students that receive help through federal safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), or “are considered at risk of hunger,” possibly because they are homeless or poverty-ridden.

CBPP -- School Poverty

 

As demonstrated in the chart above, in another 6,000 schools across 44 states, 50 to 60 percent of students are Identified Students.

As Greenstein notes, “this means that in more than 14,000 schools” — over “1 in 10 schools nationwide” — a “majority of the students receive SNAP or are homeless, migrant, or otherwise vulnerable.”

Unfortunately, the numbers get worse: For every 10 Identified Students, the CBPP finds that six additional students come from families that qualify for either reduced-price or free school meals, which suggests that they, too, are economically vulnerable.

The data also serve to reinforce the significance of community eligibility programs. Considering that “nearly 16 million American children live in households that struggle against hunger,” offering free breakfast and lunch in over 28,000 U.S. schools is especially important and has much deeper implications for students. Research has long shown that students who face food insecurity are less likely to succeed in school, because they tend to miss more days, not focus in class, and struggle with behavioral and academic difficulties. While the community eligibility program is certainly not a remedy for widespread poverty, it is a positive treatment for a particular population affected by this already existing economic instability; the community eligibility program can help students who often fall through the cracks because of economic insecurity and deprivation.

Photo: USDAGov via Flickr

Chart via Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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