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15 Percent of Hoosiers Struggle with Hunger

An estimated 15 percent of Indiana residents don't know where their next meal will come from. A new report by Feeding America breaks it down by county. (USDA)
An estimated 15 percent of Indiana residents don't know where their next meal will come from. A new report by Feeding America breaks it down by county. (USDA)
April 29, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS - Too many Hoosiers still go hungry, according to a new report.

The newly released 2016 "Map the Meal Gap" report from the group Feeding America detailed food insecurity rates in every county and congressional district in the country. The study found that 15 percent of Indiana's population is "food insecure." Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry, said that's more than 1 million people.

"About one in seven Hoosiers are at risk of hunger, and that number's even higher when you're looking at the child population, because we actually break that out," she said, "and for kids, the average in Indiana is 21 percent of kids, or one in five, don't know where their next meal is coming from."

Weikert Bryant said that about a third of Indiana's food-insecure people have incomes above 185 percent of the federal poverty level and are being served only by charities because they aren't eligible for federal nutrition programs.

The report covered a five-year period, Weikert Bryant said, and showed what's happened since the recession. She said there hasn't been a lot of progress in reducing the number of people who go hungry. In Indiana, groups in the Feeding America network distributed more than 80 million pounds of food last year.

"But we're only a fraction of what happens," she said. "If you multiply, more or less, what the charitable sector does by about nine or 10, that would get you to covering the federal nutrition programs and the food that they are able to provide to these families who are in need of assistance."

The report said Hamilton County has the lowest overall food-insecurity numbers, for adults and children. Marion County has the highest number of hungry people, and the county with the highest number of hungry children is Fayette.

We'll never be able to completely wipe out hunger, Weikert Bryant said, but there are ways to help reduce it.

"If you have the ability to volunteer, to donate to those food banks or pantries, either monetarily or donating food - or definitely talking to your elected officials," she said. "Talking to the lawmakers that seek to represent you, and ask them what they intend to do to eliminate hunger in our country."

A county-by-county hunger map is online at feedingindianashungry.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN