FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018
NOVEMBER 17, 2009
Baltimore, Md. – November 17, 2009 – In Maryland, 9.6 percent of households struggled with hunger during the 2006-2008 period, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nationally, more than 49.1 million people lived in households that were food insecure in 2008 – up from 36.2 million in 2007 and 33.2 million in 2000.
The new national data in the report represent answers about 2008, relatively early in the recession. The national number today almost undoubtedly is considerably worse. The state data predate the recession’s real impact even more. To report food insecurity in each state, USDA uses three-year averages to compensate for limited sample sizes in the states and to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing hunger – thus the state data are an average for 2006-2008. “Everything we are seeing in Maryland tells us that a new survey taken today would undoubtedly show far higher numbers of people struggling to put food on the table,” said Kimberley Chin, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions.
“Maryland is home to three of the wealthiest counties in the nation (Howard, Montgomery, and Calvert), but one in ten of our people live in a household that faces a constant struggle against hunger,” said Chin. Noting that Governor Martin O’Malley has declared the week of November 16 to 20 to be Maryland Hunger Awareness Week, Chin pointed out that these new numbers underscore the need for dramatic action by state officials to tackle the challenge of hunger.
“We can end hunger by lifting up both children and their parents, and there are a number of opportunities that can get us started,” said Chin. “Our state could do a better job in fully utilizing the federal nutrition programs. For example, for every 100 children that eat school lunch, only 44 also participate in the school breakfast program. Food Supplement benefits only reach nearly seven out of every ten eligible individuals.”
Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger nonprofit that analyzed the new USDA data, noted that the national food insecurity numbers reached record levels for children and adults. “President Barack Obama has made it a goal to end childhood hunger by 2015, and these numbers highlight the urgency of taking action to achieve this goal,” said Weill, “Hungry children can’t learn, grow, or thrive. The Administration has signaled its commitment to achieving this goal, and Congress must seize every opportunity to make the 2015 goal a reality.”
Maryland Hunger Solutions joined FRAC in agreeing that ending childhood hunger by 2015 is an achievable goal – one that can be reached by strengthening the federal nutrition programs, improving income supports like refundable tax credits, and ensuring that all people can access nutritious food at home, at school or child care settings, and in their communities.
Among the 9.6 percent of people in Maryland households considered to be food insecure during the 2006-2008 period, 3.4 percent were living in households that were considered to have “very low food security.” People that fall into this USDA category had more severe problems experiencing hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis for both adults and children.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions, an anti-hunger and nutrition organization, is dedicated to ending hunger in Maryland by raising awareness of the problem among the public, media, and policymakers, and changing policy and practice to connect struggling families to the School Breakfast Program and other federal nutrition programs. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center.