The U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service released new data today that found one in seven households in Idaho struggled with hunger from 2010 to 2012. Nationally, almost 50 million people lived in households considered food insecure in 2012—meaning households couldn’t afford an adequate diet at all times in the last 12 months. That ranks Idaho at 24th in the nation.
“[Those numbers] are a bit higher than the years before. We would have expected it to be a lot worse if it weren’t for our Food Stamp Program responding in an incredible way,” Kathy Gardner of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force told Boise Weekly.
These new food insecurity numbers come as Members of Congress prepare to return next week from their August recess. The House is expected to introduce a bill that would strip $40 billion in funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
“Given the level of food insecurity that continues to persist in this state, Congress needs to stop asking how much to cut from SNAP and other low-income programs and start acting on what is going to help struggling families,” Gardner said in a press release.
In the 14 percent of Idaho households considered to be food insecure in this new data, 5.3 percent had “very low food security,” meaning they had even more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger, more cut backs and skipping meals on a more regular basis for both adults and children.
Gardner said that in Idaho, where food assistance is still called food stamps, the program responded well in the recession, but it remains critical to the food security of Idahoans. She said seniors and Hispanic community members underutilize the program, and are often the most vulnerable when it comes to food security.
Gardner told BW that for seniors, the program is often surrounded by stigma and myths. The elderly also become increasingly homebound, making them a hard-to-reach demographic. She said many in the Hispanic community, even documented immigrants, remain fearful of government programs, so they turn away from SNAP.