We just received our new Map the Meal Gap 2013 report from Feeding America. This allows us to see at the county level how many people are classified as “Food Insecure” meaning they are not sure if they will have enough food to last the rest of the week. This research is funded by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation and The Nielson Co.
This is the third consecutive year of receiving the report, so we can begin to see a more complete picture as we compare each year’s data versus the other two years. Each year’s report is from data that is 2 years old, so the new 2013 report is from 2011 data and so on as we look back to prior year’s reports.
So having laid all that foundation, the new 2013 report shows that the east central Indiana food insecure population has dropped from 80,620 in 2011 to 76,480 in 2012 to 74,090 in 2013. The percentage of the total population dropped from 17.7 percent in 2011 to 16.1 percent in 2013. All positive news. We are so glad to see that fewer people are in this food insecure situation. A drop of 1.6 percent or 6,530 people is to be celebrated, but even the best year still shows that 1 in 6 people in our region are still struggling to feed their family and that shortens the celebration.
This data also shows that 30 percent or 22,227 people who are food insecure make too much money for any government assistance programs. That supports the information we are getting back from the food pantries that we serve who say that the fastest growing segment of new clients they are serving have jobs, but don’t make enough money to make ends meet. This situation is referred to as being “under employed.”
In this region of the state it takes a job that pays just north of $17.00/ hour for one adult with one child to earn a living wage. How many jobs do you know of that meet this threshold? For more information on this search Living Wage Calculator Indiana or livingwage.mit.edu/states/18.
How does this new report challenge us to go forward? We have an extensive report (7 years of history) that we have created to help us measure our progress in each county. When we input the new food insecure data it shows that we have reached 61 percent of our goal with the amount of food that we are distributing. In 2012 we distributed over 10.5 million pounds or 7.9 million meals in just our eight counties and another 1.5 million to other food banks in the state. To reach the current goal it needs to be just under 20 million pounds or 15 million meals.
We are developing some new relationships in a few counties called Community Access Partners to help us get the fresh produce we acquire distributed in east central Indiana instead of sending high-quality perishables to other food banks because of time sensitivity. With well-established relationships, new relationships and your support we will make big strides to making local hunger a thing of the past.
Tim Kean is executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. His column appears the third Sunday of each month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.