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2011-09-15

Texas Hunger Report Outlines Food Insecurity Across Texas, Resources to Solve It

Special to the Courier

Special to the Courier

The Texas Food Bank Network, Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative and First Choice Power today released “Hunger by the Numbers: A Blueprint for Ending Hunger in Texas.” The report includes a hunger scorecard for each of the 254 counties of Texas, a state which ranks second in the nation for food insecurity. The report provides a road map with resources for funding and programs to fight at a local, statewide and national level.

“This is the first time one report measures and describes the extent of hunger and its potential solutions in each of Texas’ counties,” said Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Texas Food Bank Network, a coalition of the 19 food banks in Texas.

The report comes on the heels of a recent announcement by the US Department of Agriculture that Texas has the second highest rate of hunger in the nation. According to USDA, 18.8 percent of Texas households, or one in five, were at risk of hunger between 2008 and 2010.

Hunger by the Numbers: A Blueprint for Ending Hunger in Texas incorporates the newest national data on hunger made available by Feeding America, the nation’s network of food banks, along with US Census data and statewide data on usage of federal and state programs.

“As Texans read this report, they will learn some startling facts about the size of the hunger problem in their state, which currently ranks second worst in the nation when it comes to hunger,” said Jeremy Everett, executive director of the Texas Hunger Initiative. “They also may be surprised to learn the extent of the hunger problems in their own back yards.”

Hunger reaches every area of the state: 18 percent are food insecure in Harris County, home to the fourth largest city in the nation; 24 percent are food insecure in Hidalgo County, the gateway to Mexico; 16 percent are food insecure in Travis County, where state leaders meet to discuss how to combat these issues.

In Bandera County, 3,340 residents (17 percent) are food insecure. On average, these residents report an annual budget shortfall of $429 needed to afford “just enough” food. Many are eligible for federal nutrition programs, but 53 percent may earn too much to receive SNAP or WIC, and forty percent are ineligible for most federal nutrition programs.

According to the USDA, a moderately priced, nutritious diet for all of Bandera County’s low-income residents (with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line) costs $15,996,163 annually.
Currently, 55 percent of low income county residents say they purchase the bulk of this food with their own money.

No matter how it is measured, hunger represents a disparity between income and expenses. As such, it can be permanently ended only by opportunities to earn and save enough money to meet the cost of living, and the knowledge to spend this money effectively.

In the meantime, existing nutrition programs can be used more effectively to reduce hunger. For example, Bandera County leaves $3,816,551 in SNAP benefits “on the table” in Washington each year, costing the county $6,831,627 in potential economic activity.

Federal food assistance programs include SNAP, WIC, school meals, summer meals, after-school snacks and commodities. Families with annual incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line are likely income-eligible for all programs. That would qualify a family of one with an income of $14,079, a family of two with an income of $18,941, a family of three with an income of $23,803 and a family of four with an income of $28,665.

Along with compiled hunger data county-by-county, the report lists the resources available in each community to address hunger. Those resources include: SNAP (formally food stamps), free and reduced breakfast and lunch in schools, WIC and other federal programs.

First Choice Power, a retail electric provider in Texas, sponsored the report as part of its Food FirstTM program, which was created to fight hunger in the communities it serves.

“Take a moment to look over this insightful report and ask what you can do to fight hunger in our own backyard,” said Brian Hayduk, president of First Choice Power. “We believe the greatest energy source in our state is its people. And we are convinced that an informed community will be an engaged community.”

For more information and to view your county’s hunger score card, visit:

www.firstchoicepower.com/HungerGapReport.