Why We Glean
We live in the world’s wealthiest nation. Yet nearly 15 percent of U.S. households are food-insecure – they struggle to put food on the table. That’s 17.6 million households, or nearly 49 million Americans. Six percent of households experience very low food security, according to Feeding America, a network comprised of about 80 percent of all U.S. food banks.
The figures are virtually unchanged since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.
Kansas and Missouri are above average, but in this case, it’s nothing to be proud of. We rank 8th (Missouri) and 15th (Kansas) among the 50 states in food insecurity.
Children are among the most vulnerable. Harvesters – the Community Food Network estimates that in our region, more than 123,000 children — or one out of every five — is living in a home without dependable access to enough food to be healthy. The problem is especially great in single-parent families.
Harvesters estimates that 37 percent of those it serves are children under 18 years old. Nine percent are age 5 or younger.
Eighty-five percent of children served by Harvesters live in households with incomes below the poverty level. Sixty-five percent participate in free and reduced price school lunch programs. About 4 in 10 of the food-insecure children don’t qualify for federal nutrition programs and often must rely on charitable food assistance programs.
Child food insecurity rates in our region range from 27 percent in Wyandotte County to 16.4 percent in Platte County.
Seniors are another especially vulnerable group. Eight percent of those served by Harvesters are over age 65. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, individuals who are most at risk for food insecurity are the elderly and disabled who are less mobile, have health problems and live alone.
Feeding America found that compared to senior citizens with adequate food, food-insecure seniors are:
- 60 percent more likely to experience depression
- 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
- 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
- 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure
For individuals and families, food insecurity may mean reducing food portions or skipping meals altogether, and it means the uncertainty of not knowing where their next meal will come from.
Food insecurity is detrimental to our health, economy, and community. In food-insecure households, children do worse in school and adults miss more days of work. Because they often only have access to low-nutrient, high-fat foods, food-insecure people have a harder time managing chronic illnesses and are more likely to suffer from diet-related health problems such as diabetes and obesity.
According to the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, hungry children are more likely to be poor as adults than those who are not. Result: poorer living conditions and substandard housing.
Sadly, hunger in America is not due to a shortage of food. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in the United States, 31 percent or 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of available food at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. It spoiled, was left on people’s plates, was not economically feasible to recover, was damaged or for some other reason was wasted. (Losses on the farm and between the farm and retailer were not included in the figures.)
The estimated total value of food loss in 2010 at the retail and consumer levels was $161.6 billion.
Hunger in Missouri
- 1,031,030 people are food insecure
- 308,110 children are food insecure
- 48% served by emergency food programs report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel
- 37% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care
Hunger in Kansas
- 426,850 people are food insecure
- 162,400 children are food insecure
- 54% served by emergency food programs report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel
- 36% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care