Lewis Diuguid

Food insecurity remains big problem in U.S.

Missouri ranks above the nation and Kansas in the number of households suffering food insecure, or a lacking a dependable access to enough food.

The new U.S. Department of Agriculture report said that 14.5 percent, or 17.6 million households, were food insecure in 2012. That’s virtually unchanged from 2008 during the start of the Great Recession.

Missourians are worse off than the nation with 16.7 percent of households in the state being food insecure. In Kansas, 14.4 percent of the households were food insecure.

What the numbers mean is that the economy hasn’t improved enough and not enough has been done since the Great Recession to elevate more people out of poverty and worrying where their next meal will come from. It should signal to Congress as lawmakers return from recess on Monday to re-marry the food stamp program with agriculture subsidies in the farm bill.

The Agriculture Department report also showed that 5.7 percent, or 7 million of all 121.4 million U.S. households, had “very low food security.” Children were food insecure at times during the year in 10 percent of households with children. That means that “3.9 million household were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for children.”

Food insecurity rates were significantly higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, households with children headed by a single parent and for black and Latino households. People living in urban and rural areas also were more likely to suffer food insecurity than suburban and exurban areas.

The Agriculture Department study pointed out that 59 percent of the food insecure households reported that in the previous month they were on one or more of the federal food and nutrition assistance programs. Those are food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch Program.