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Ohio Research: Income, Poverty and Unemployment Impact Hunger

GRAPHIC: The Ohio Hunger Index shows how income, poverty and unemployment contribute to hunger and food insecurity.
GRAPHIC: The Ohio Hunger Index shows how income, poverty and unemployment contribute to hunger and food insecurity.
February 24, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio is well up among the states, at 11th place, for high food insecurity, and a new tool takes a closer look at the economic factors contributing to the problem. The Ohio Hunger Index, created by researcher Howard Fleeter, combines median income, poverty and unemployment, and finds those indicators worsened significantly in the aftermath of the recession. Fleeter says in 2008, the Hunger Index value was 9.64, and it jumped to 13.38 in 2012.

"Even though the recession's gotten better, for people at the lower end of the income spectrum, who are the ones that struggle the most to put food on the table, the factors that influence that problem; they're still there," he said.

The Hunger Index also found that underlying economic conditions in Ohio prior to the 2008 recession had deteriorated compared with economic conditions in 2000. Fleeter said that suggests that by the onset of the 2008 recession Ohio was still recovering from the 2001 recession.

Fleeter added that the price of food is also putting pressure on people who have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from.

"In addition to these other factors of whether you have a job, whether it makes you enough money to be above or below the poverty line, we've also had food prices have gone up greater than income and more than the prices of other things," he pointed out.

According to the executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, decisions being made now are going to make the hunger situation worse, pointing out that food stamp benefits are being limited for unemployed adults without dependents to just three months out of every three years. She said more action is needed to help Ohio's hungry.

That means "by ensuring that we are getting eligible individuals on and being able to maintain their food stamp eligibility, ensuring that our children have access to free and reduced-price meals, and (that) no senior should be making choices between food, medicine and medical care."

Hamler-Fugitt said advocates will use the Hunger Index to better educate policy makers about the influences of hunger and how it's directly related to income, poverty and unemployment.

The research is available at OhioFoodBanks.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH