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Families Across KY Unable to Afford Food, Many Don't Qualify for Assistance

More than 600,000 people in Kentucky face food insecurity, according to a new "Map the Meal Gap" report. (Adobe Stock)
More than 600,000 people in Kentucky face food insecurity, according to a new "Map the Meal Gap" report. (Adobe Stock)
May 2, 2019

BEREA, Ky. – More than 600,000 Kentuckians, many of them children, are going hungry, according to a new "Map the Meal Gap" report by the group Feeding America.

The report, which looked at food insecurity in all 120 counties in the state, found Magoffin County had the highest rate of food insecurity, at 22.5%.

Oldham County had the least number of people going hungry, at 7.6%.

Jamie Sizemore, executive director of Feeding America, Kentucky's Heartland, says families working minimum-wage or low-income jobs are struggling the most, because many do not qualify for federal food assistance or SNAP benefits.

"What we're finding is, we're seeing more and more working families that are just scraping to get by, living paycheck to paycheck,” she explains. “And so what frequently happens is, they may have something happen in their household like a car breaking down. Food just typically is the last thing on the list."

The number of food-insecure people living in Kentucky remains higher than the rest of the country. Nationwide, 78 percent of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are rural, according to the report.

Children are especially vulnerable when it comes to hunger.

According to the report, food insecurity among Kentucky children is 18%, compared with 15% for the overall population. During the summer, children don't have access to regular school nutrition programs.

Currently, the federal Summer Food Service Program helps feed children in need when school is not in session, but Sizemore says the program's strict requirements on how and when children can be fed don't always align with life in rural communities.

"Right now, it has to be a congregated meal,” she explains. “They have to actually sit down and serve that meal. That's just not viable when you're living in rural Kentucky.

“So, we're working really hard to try to feed those people. But it's just a Band-Aid. We've got to get to the root causes. We've got to look for other ways. And until we do that, food insecurity is going to persist."

The rising cost of a meal is another contributor to food insecurity. The report found that since 2017, food prices have been steadily inching upward.

Disclosure: Feeding Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY