Last week the United States Department of Agriculture released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2015 report. This annual report highlights the disturbingly high rate of Texans who struggle to afford enough food for a healthy diet.
This year’s report actually shows some good news. The end of the recession and the hard work Texas has done to expand access to free school meals through strategies like Breakfast in the Classroom, Community Eligibility and the Afterschool Meals Program are beginning to show results. While still much worse than the national average, Texas’ household food insecurity rate dropped from 18.4 percent in 2010-12 to 15.4 percent in 2013-15. That is one of the biggest drops in the country. We are also one of a handful of states with a rate now better than we had in 2003-05 – before the recession. Texas now has the 11th worst food insecurity rate after being in the top five for years.
Unfortunately our rate of “very low food security”– the point where worrying about running out of food crosses over to actually going hungry — is stuck at six percent, which isn’t far from previous years and higher than it was 10 years ago. This translates to almost 600,000 Texas households going hungry because of counter-productive state policies like the Full Family Sanction, which kicks whole families off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when a parent loses a job and is not able to meet the program’s work requirements. We can do better than this.
The next legislature has the chance to keep the positive momentum going by passing policies that support low-income workers and families including updating our SNAP program to better serve the needs of Texans struggling against hunger. Now is the time to end food insecurity in Texas.