Food Insecurity Continues to Plague 1 in 6 Ohioans
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Imagine, on any given day, waking up unsure if there will be enough food to feed your family. That's the situation for one in six Ohioans who is food insecure, according to the findings of the newest Map the Meal Gap report.
Nationally, the data released Thursday showed, about 14 percent of Americans lacked access at times to enough food for a healthy life. In Ohio, the rate was almost 17 percent, which Joree Novotny, director of communications and grant management for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said has remained consistent in recent years. She added that these households experience an average food budget shortfall of about $15 per person each week.
"In Ohio, we're falling about 343 million meals short in our food-insecure households' ability to afford enough food on their own," she said. "We make up for that as best we can in our charitable network, but we certainly cannot respond to that gap on our own."
Hunger impacts children at a greater rate, with nearly one in four Ohio kids living in food-insecure households. Novotny noted that hunger occurs in every Ohio county, from major cities to rural Appalachian regions.
Despite working to support their families, Novotny said, many people are earning low wages that actually make them unable to qualify for food assistance.
"What's really striking is that nearly half of the food-insecure Ohioans that are reflected in this report are not income-eligible for SNAP, or food stamp, benefits," she said, "which is our nation's most critical line of defense against hunger."
Novotny said Ohio's hunger-fighting network is doing what it can, but more support is needed at the federal level. However, she pointed out that the U.S. House has introduced a budget proposal and a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that would weaken programs for those who are food insecure.
"This is not the time to weaken nutrition programs that help our kids," she said. "We really need to step up for our kids unless we want to face more serious and costly consequences down the road in the way of poor health outcomes, reduced educational attainment and diminished worker productivity."
The report is online at map.feedingamerica.org.