Friday, August 29, 2008

Census: 1 in 6 Texans Live Below Poverty

Despite an economic recovery lasting from 2003-2007, nearly one in six Texans – and nearly one in four Texas children – remain below the federal poverty line, according to new Census data released earlier this week.

These findings confirm that the recovery was one of the weakest on record, with costs-of-living and low wage growth driving many new families to poverty. 3.8 million Texans, 1.5 million of whom were children, lived below the meager federal poverty guideline of $20,650 for a family of four in 2007, according to the Census.

Although this data covers only 2007, evidence from Texas food banks and food stamp offices suggest that conditions have worsened since then:
  • State food stamp offices served 2.5 million Texans this August, compared with 2.3 million at this time last year.
  • Members of the Texas Food Bank Network have reported an 11% increase in demand over the prior year, and are now feeding more than 385,000 households every month.
Hunger is growing by every measure. That means it's likely that poverty is growing, too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Food Banks Struggling to Meet Hurricane Needs

Demand for emergency food has risen across Texas this summer, and across the population - working families, kids and seniors are all facing the prospect of hunger.

Now add to the list hurricane victims, as food banks find themselves attending to ongoing needs when emergency teams from FEMA and the Red Cross stand down.

This week, the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley issued a statewide appeal (1, 2) for more food following Hurricane Dolly. While most first responders and shelter managers have gone home, the food bank continues to see a flood of need.

"Normally, our agencies serve about 517 meals per day in any given week, whereas they are now serving 3,255 meals per day," said Terri Drefke, executive director of the food bank.

Should private charity be our only safety net when federal efforts aren't enough? FEMA seems to think so, as they are now considering phasing out the delivery of ice following natural disasters. Meanwhile, food banks along the Texas coast are turning their attention to Tropical Storm Edouard.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hunger Rising Among Texas Elderly

A report released today by the Meals on Wheels Association of America Foundation projects that the raw number of elderly Americans suffering from food insecurity will grow 75% by 2025.

According to U.S. Census statistics, there are currently more than 185,000 food-insecure Texans 65 years and older. Using this report's projections, the state is likely to face nearly 324,000 food insecure elderly by 2025.

Not surprisingly, the report finds that food insecurity among the elderly results in low vitamin intake and poor health outcomes. It also agrees with findings published last November by the South Texas Food Bank showing the primary causes of hunger to include low income, education levels and assets. "Controlling for other factors," today's report concludes, "seniors without emotional or financial support are substantially more likely to suffer from hunger."

In Tyler, the East Texas Food Bank is partnering with Meals on Wheels to serve the growing number of seniors there who have been hurt by rising food and fuel prices. According to KETK News, the program now has its first waiting list in 35 years, and has discovered recipients rationing food to get through the weekend.