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Kentucky Feeling Pangs of Food Insecurity

Nearly two out of every 10 Kentuckians face some food insecurity, according to a new report. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Nearly two out of every 10 Kentuckians face some food insecurity, according to a new report. (Greg Stotelmyer)
April 28, 2016

HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. – A new report shows nearly 17 percent of Kentuckians are at risk of hunger.

The Map the Meal Gap 2016 study by Feeding America, a network of food banks, tracks food insecurity county by county across the country.

Betty Hudak is director of the St. Stephens Outreach Pantry in Harlan County, which has the second highest rate of food insecurity in the state at more than 22 percent.

"Because the economy's bad, a lot of people they're not blessed to be able to go out of town to shop for groceries and get a better price,” she states. “Some people will go hungry before they will come and stand in line. But, I have people that stand in line for two hours to get a box of food. "

Hudak says the pantry she runs in Cumberland distributes 300 to 400 food boxes a month, each box providing a family of three enough food for three to five meals.

Map the Meal Gap estimates it would take an additional $346 million to meet Kentuckians' food needs.

Food insecurity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's measure of the lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life for everyone in a household.

The report reveals that nearly three out of 10 food insecure individuals in Kentucky have income levels that prevent them from qualifying for federal nutrition assistance.

Hudak says she runs into that constantly, especially with seniors on fixed incomes.

"By the time that they pay for their medicine, their utilities and everything, they don't have the funds to buy the food," she explains.

But it's children, according to the report, who are at the highest risk of food insecurity, with the rate at nearly 22 percent statewide. And, it's over 30 percent in 11 counties, including Wolfe, where Rev. Eugene Spencer's church runs the Abiding Hope Food Pantry.

"When they call in distress or something, they always say that there's children involved,” he points out. “There's a lot of children that go without. It seems like that the money gets used for other things and then food is kind of like the last thing to worry about and there's a lot of children that suffer because of that. "

According to the report, 37 percent of children in Wolfe County face food insecurity, the highest rate in the state.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY