Hunger Action Month: Poverty, increase in food demand and Texas

September 14, 2009 § Leave a comment

LGLisa Goddard
Advocacy and Online Marketing Director

Census shows sharp rise in poverty. Feeding America study shows increase in food demand. Texas ranks above national average.

Last Friday, census numbers revealed the poverty rate climbed to 13.2 percent from 12.5 percent. The number of people living in poverty rose to 39.8 million last year, an increase of 2.6 million from 2007, and 15.9 percent of Texans lived in poverty in 2008.

In early September 2009, Feeding America conducted a survey of food banks to learn more about the challenges they, their member agencies, and clients face. The report shows a staggering increase in food bank demand (99 percent report an increase in demand for emergency food assistance over the past year). I encourage you to learn about what our sister food banks are reporting around the country, what’s going on in Texas, and what we’re facing in Central Texas.  

What happens when families in poverty do not have a safety net through family, friends or federal feeding programs like SNAP (food stamps)?  Food Banks become their lifeline, and it shows.

census imagePutting the numbers into context:

The official U.S. poverty rate is based on income thresholds. According to census calculations, a family of four is considered poor if pretax income falls below $21,660; $10,830 for an individual.  There are some advocacy and interest groups who assert that this number grossly underestimates what it really means to be poor in America. Recently, the Obama administration agreed, and implemented changes to the calculation of poverty, specifically for seniors, to account for medical expenses and other costs of living.

Others feel that in comparison to other poor individuals in the world, America’s poor “aren’t really that bad off.”  Do you think $21,660 can support a family of four’s nutritious diet, provide them with adequate, warm housing for the winter, prepare them for work and school, and support basic health care needs?   

What’s at stake for counting the poor?

According to Nonprofits Count, lower-income individuals are frequently undercounted by the census, leading to underfunding of critical services and infrastructure and underrepresentation in government.  States receive an average $1,200 per person annually through census data-driven federal formula grants. As you can see, Central Texas is leaving money on the table, as evidenced by our low census participation rates in the last census.

What you can do.

Call your Congresspersons today and tell them what you think about the state of poverty in your community.  Share the statistics from the Feeding America report so they know the staggering need for food assistance. Ask for reform and support for Central Texas’s poor, and especially children in poverty.

Get involved with census outreach to ensure all Central Texans are counted. Click here to find out how you can support nonprofits with their outreach.

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