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One in Six Households Can't Afford to Buy Food

PHOTO: A new report from the Food Research and Action Center finds that one-in-six American households said there were times they couldn't afford to buy food in 2014, many relied on community food banks such as the one above. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
PHOTO: A new report from the Food Research and Action Center finds that one-in-six American households said there were times they couldn't afford to buy food in 2014, many relied on community food banks such as the one above. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
April 9, 2015

DENVER - While Congress considers cuts to safety-net programs such as food stamps, a new report by the Food Research and Action Center shows millions of Americans still are struggling to put food on the table. The study, "How Hungry is America?" found one-in-six American homes admitted there were times in the past year when they couldn't afford to buy food.

Cate Blackford, child nutrition manager with Hunger Free Colorado, says even in an improving economy, basic needs remain out of reach for too many people.

"Even as the economy has begun to recover, housing prices have gone up, food prices have gone up. Even if families are back to work, there are significant barriers to self-sufficiency and making sure they're able to provide enough healthy food for their family."

Colorado ranked 40th among states with high levels of food hardship. While that puts the state well above average, Blackford says it still means one-in-seven Colorado households went hungry at some point in 2014. Ninety-eight of the largest 100 metropolitan areas surveyed reported food hardship. In Colorado Springs, almost one out of every five homes lacked money for food.

The report warns that food hardship poses risks for children, working-age adults, people with disabilities and seniors. Going hungry also increases stress levels, which is bad for health, learning and productivity, which in turn drives up health and other costs for families, employers and government.

Blackford says without reports such as "How Hungry is America" it can be hard to see how many are affected.

"Hunger is an invisible problem in our communities," says Blackford. "You can't tell who had breakfast or not. You can't tell who may be looking for something for lunch but there's not really anything in the cupboard."

The report's recommendations to reduce the number of Americans struggling to find their next meal include a move toward full employment, strengthening wages and investing in effective programs such as SNAP and school breakfasts.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO