More Blacks Go Hungry

Informer Staff Report | 11/19/2009, 2:05 a.m.

More than one in four, or nearly 26 percent of African American households, suffered from food insecurity in 2008, compared to 14.6 percent of whites. This is according to the most recent data on hunger released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today. The overall increase from 2007 is the largest one-year increase since the USDA first began publishing the data.

€Sadly, the data released today is not surprising,€ said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. €What should shock us is that an astounding number of children in our country live on the brink of hunger. We must make serious progress against child hunger when Congress renews child nutrition programs next year,€ Beckmann continued.

The most recent data was released just as Agriculture Secretary Vilsack testifies before the Senate about the administration's priorities for reauthorization of child nutrition programs. President Barack Obama set the ambitious but achievable goal of ending child hunger by 2015, and Vilsack is charged with making it a reality.
Beckmann pointed to skyrocketing unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation as a barometer of food security.

With millions of Americans losing their jobs, participation in SNAP has reached record levels as more families are in need of food assistance, he said. More than 36 million people, half of them children, received SNAP benefits in August 2009 a 24 percent increase since the same time last year.

Child hunger is not just a casualty of the recession. It was a problem before the recession, and unless we take the necessary steps, kids will continue to suffer after the economy recovers, Beckmann said. Even before the recession, researchers estimated that 90 percent of African American children and nearly half of all children, will receive SNAP benefits by the age of 20, according to a study recently published in an American Medical Association journal.

Malika Holmes, 19, said that while she is aware that more people are having issues during the recession, a lot of her friends, all African Americans, seem to be fairing worse than others.

€I am noticing more of my neighbors taking advantage of bread give-aways at local recreation centers. They go to work everyday, but are not meeting their weekly or monthly bills so they have to get what they can where they can,€ Holmes said.

Holmes, of Northwest, said that a lot of younger people her age are stuck between living off of their parents extra money, or the kindness of others. €

€Some of this is being on your own and away from your parents; you are always hungry and looking for free meals. Another part of it is that not as many people are offering you free meals so you learn to live off of the .99 cent menu and Sunday dinners at local churches,€ Holmes said.
Beckmann agrees.

The recession has made the problem of hunger worse, and it has also made it more visible, Beckmann said. Increased public awareness and the administrations commitment give me hope. To end hunger, our leaders need to strengthen nutrition programs and provide steady jobs that allow parents to escape the cycle of poverty and feed their families for years to come.

The job-creating potential of greening the U.S. economy is the subject of Bread for the World Institutes 2010 Hunger Report: A Just and Sustainable Recovery, which will be released on November 23.

The report explores how the worst recession in 75 years can be the catalyst for a historic shift in the economy that creates sustainable opportunities for low-income Americans to work their way out of poverty and provide for their families.

For state facts on child nutrition programs and a state-by-state data on food security, unemployment, and SNAP participation, visit www.bread.org/foodsecurity.

Bread for the World (www.bread.org) is a collective Christian voice urging our nation€s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. WI