Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hunger on the Rise in Ohio

In Ohio, 2,083,240 people-or 18.1 percent of the population-are food insecure, meaning that they don't always know where they will find their next meal, according to new research released April 27 by Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization.

The findings result from Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap" study, which provides estimates on the rate of food insecurity at the county and congressional district level for the entire nation.

"Food insecurity is one of the leading public health challenges in the United States due to the physical and mental damage and behavioral problems it may cause," said Dr. Craig Gundersen, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, a member of Feeding America's Technical Advisory Group, and the lead researcher of the "Map the Meal Gap" study. "By ascertaining the extent and distribution of food insecurity at the county and congressional district level, we can better direct our resources to alleviating this serious problem."

"We believe that no one in our state should go hungry or try to survive without access to adequate amounts of healthy, nutritious food," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director at the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. "The findings from the 'Map the Meal Gap' study demonstrate that more than two million people in our state are still faced with the real threat of hunger, despite claims that the economic recession has passed."

The total number of food insecure people in Ohio has increased since last year, and the local trend in Ohio is higher than what is being seen at the national level. Overall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the national food insecurity rate remained relatively unchanged from last year at 16.1 percent in 2010-or nearly 49 million people nationwide.

The findings also show:

* The cost of an average meal in Ohio is $2.33. That's almost $0.80 more than the average food stamp recipient receives in benefits and that Ohio Community Action Food Stamp Challenge participants are attempting to make do with.

* In Ohio, food insecure individuals said they would need an additional $13.22 per week to put enough food on the table for an adequate diet, representing an annual food budget shortfall of more than $835.5 million.

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