By Jeanie Donovan
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report that finds that 1.7 million low-income households in Texas struggle to afford enough food. The report, titled Household Food Security in the United States in 2012, shows that, on average, one in five Texas households reported food insecurity between 2010 and 2012. Texas ranks 3rd in the nation for highest percentage of food insecure households and has a significantly higher rate of food insecurity at 18.4 percent than the national average 14.5 percent.
So what does it mean to be “food insecure?” The majority of U.S. households are food secure, meaning that they have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living. But the other 17.6 million households are food insecure, meaning they lack the financial resources to attain a consistent, nutritious diet throughout the year. Of those households that had difficulty affording food, 7 million of them were classified as having “very low food security” – the most severe condition associated with hunger. Very low food security means that family members have to reduce intake or skip meals due to limited resources. About 6.2 percent of all Texas households suffer from very low food security.
Although the rate of food insecurity in Texas is already higher than the national average, two changes at the federal level will make things even worse. On November 1, a cut will go into effect that will reduce the SNAP benefit levels for every household on the program, regardless of need. For a family of 4, their benefit will be cut by $36 per month, a significant sum when you are already struggling with food insecurity. At the same time, federal lawmakers are still threatening to make dramatic cuts to SNAP as they continue to try to negotiate provisions of the Farm Bill. The proposed changes would mean that many Texans struggling against hunger would no longer be eligible for the help SNAP provides. These changes, combined with the slow recovery of the economy, place Texas households at higher risk of experiencing food insecurity in the future.
Not only is food insecurity devastating to the individuals and families who experience it directly, it also has a negative impact on Texas as a whole. Children who are hungry have difficulty learning and reaching their full potential, and adults who are don’t have enough to eat are less healthy and are less productive members of society.
Texans must ensure that our representatives in Washington understand that food insecurity is real in Texas. Cutting more deeply into SNAP will have painful consequences for the poorest Texans and would hurt the 2 million children in Texas who rely on the program.
Click here to find out how you can join the effort to protect SNAP and reduce food insecurity rates in our state.