Food numbers are reason for concern
Among the most basic worries for families is having enough money to afford to feed everyone in the household. According to the Food Research and Action Center, the inability to do so is called food hardship. The center conducts an annual study on food hardship rates across the country, then reports on both states and metropolitan statistical areas.
In 2017 the national food hardship rate was 15.7 percent, up from 15.1 percent in 2016; the rate for households with children was 18.4 percent in 2017, up from 17.5 percent in 2016.
Predictably, the three worst states for families facing food hardship in 2017 were Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia (20.3 percent). Ohio ranked 18th, at 16.2 percent.
But when the focus is switched to MSAs, there is a surprise. Bakersfield, Calif., and Fresno, Calif., were ranked first and third, respectively. The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., area was ranked second. The Bakersfield MSA has a 23.2 percent food hardship rate.
“Too many people in every region, state and community have been left behind in the economic recovery from the Great Recession, and are still struggling to put food on the table,” said Jim Weill, president of the center.
Unfortunately, the center’s analysis of the raw data in the report included some political jabs, lamenting alleged attacks against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, school meals and Medicaid. It is a shame. Some good could come from this kind of information if policy makers felt free to interpret it in an effort to find real solutions, rather than make political statements.
In fact, nationwide the rates are declining since reaching a high of 18.9 percent in 2013. The figure for last year is actually the second lowest rate since the study began.
Still, the Food Research and Action Center’s goal “to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States” is an admirable one. We will come closer to reaching it, however, only when there is realistic talk about solutions that goes beyond political talking points.