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New Data Show 12.4 Percent of Washington D.C. Households
Struggling with Hunger as Recession Hit
Washington, D.C – November 19, 2009 – One in eight households in the District of Columbia struggled with hunger during the 2006-2008 period, according to new data released by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) annual report. 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.
“Growing numbers of families in Washington, D.C. are experiencing hunger throughout the year. We need to strengthen and improve participation in programs like food stamps and school breakfast,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “Improving access to these programs helps hungry families, and it helps our city bring in more federal dollars.”
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 D.C. tells us that a new survey taken today would undoubtedly show far higher numbers of people struggling to put food on the table,” said Ashbrook.
“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 Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger nonprofit that analyzed the new USDA data. “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.”
D.C. 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.
“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 Ashbrook. “Our city 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. D.C. could help more low-income children start the day with a healthy morning meal by getting more schools to offer breakfast in the classroom, a strategy that’s proven to boost participation.”
Among the 12.4 percent of D.C. households considered to be food insecure during the 2006-2008 period, 4.2 percent 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.
Each year, the Census Bureau measures food insecurity through a series of household survey questions about the ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life for all members.