Hungry in the Land of Plenty

Food Insecurity, not knowing where the next meal will come from, affects millions of people in the US. It touches many different demographics and all geographic areas. But food insecurity is not the 800lb gorilla in the room. Instead, it is a condition that goes largely unnoticed by the general public, and largely unreported by media outlets.
 
I came across this map the other day. It is a map of food insecurity around the US. It is on the Feeding America website, and it is worth taking some time to look over and absorb the information it contains. The interactive map can be used to look at the country as a whole, at each state, and even at each individual county.
 
The sad, shocking truth is that food insecurity touches every corner of the country. According to statistics provided by Feeding America, 1 person in every 6 deals with food insecurity. Children, elderly, minorities and women seem to be most likely to face food insecurity issues. And, while some urban areas do have high incidences, food insecurity does seem to appear more in suburban and rural areas – and particularly in the South and West.
 
In order to get a better understanding of the crisis, I took the time to look at the county where Hilary’s is headquartered. Our county is home to the University of Kansas. There are three main towns and cities that comprise the vast majority of the county’s residents. The total population of the county in 2010 was approx. 110,000 (not counting a university student population in excess of 20,000). Of that number, the population dealing with food insecurity was 16,660. That comes to 15.3% of the county’s inhabitants. The economic cost to supply the meals that were going missed would have been well over $7 million.
 
Are you kidding me? 16,000 people walking around my small county who aren’t always sure where their next meal will come from?! My odds of encountering someone facing this terrible problem are 1 in 6?! The cost if my county were to provide the missing meals is over $7 million?! And now figure that Kansas has 105 counties. The problem seems as though it will be enormous.
 
And it is. In 2010 (the most recent figures I could find from Feeding America), there were almost 430,000 Kansans facing food insecurity. The total funds needed in order to meet the food needs … $185,864,680. And that number is arrived at by calculating the cost of each meal at a paltry $2.52.
 
Let’s face it. Kansas is a small state in terms of population. If the problem in Kansas would approach $200 million to address, how much will it cost to fix the problem nationwide? The answer: over $21 billion.
 
Obviously the causes and solutions surrounding food insecurity are far too complex to cover in detail in this blog. My main goal in writing this is to try to shine another light on this largely unseen hunger issue in our midst. People facing food insecurity aren’t only the homeless. They are as close as our own families, friends, and neighbors who have to decide between paying a medical bill or a mortgage and eating. It is a terrible choice, and it shouldn’t remain hidden.
 
For more information, to donate food or funds, or to find the location of a food bank or outlet near you, please visit FeedingAmerica.org.