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USDA Report: More Hungry Households in Florida

September 6, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Not enough money to keep food on the table. That's the challenge for more than 15 percent of Florida households, according to new data from the agency responsible for federal food and nutrition programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the number of Florida households considered "food insecure" has been creeping up since 2006, from just over 12 percent (the average from 2006 to 2008) to 15.4 percent (the average from 2009 to 2011).

Debra Susie, executive director of the nonprofit hunger prevention policy group Florida Impact, says seniors on fixed incomes are not the only group affected.

"We've been hit hardest with regard to the housing bubble that burst - and of course, in our state that affects construction. And when the rest of the country is suffering and not able to travel to places like Disney, our service sector suffers, as well."

Florida ranks 14th for its percentage of hungry households. Southern states make up most of the top 10.

Meanwhile, Congress is considering cutting billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. However, a new poll shows most Americans don't think that's a good idea. Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), says it might be because almost everyone knows someone who has needed the help.

"American families know what the food stamp program is and what it does. And sometimes, the people who are attacking it, using false images of it, don't realize how many of their constituents are on the program."

Weill says only 10 percent of those polled strongly favored cutting the SNAP program, while 79 percent wanted the funding either kept the same or even increased to address the problem of hunger. The poll was taken in late August.

The USDA report is available at www.ers.usda.gov. Information about the FRAC poll is at FRAC.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - FL