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More than 17 Million American Households Struggle to Put Food on the Table


Thursday, September 5, 2013   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The economy may be picking up, but when it comes to feeding their families, many Missourians are still treading water or going under.

A new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly 17 percent of households in the state are food insecure. That's up from 10 percent 10 years ago.

Glen Keonen, chairman of the hunger task force of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, says many of those families live in rural areas where jobs and more affluent people have moved out. The people who stayed don't have enough money to move, some are elderly and some of the others suffer from chronic illnesses.

"We're coming up with more and more counties in Missouri where they do not have a doctor, a pharmacy, or a grocery store," he adds.

All over the state, he says, many families live on such low wage jobs that they qualify for the SNAP program, commonly known as food stamps.

Congressional Republicans are calling for billions of dollars in cuts to SNAP.

But Keonen says with numbers like these, the program should be expanded, along with school lunches, breakfasts and other programs that prevent hunger.

Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, says food insecurity is so widespread that almost everybody knows someone who has had to get food stamps at one time or another, just to make it through the tough times.

"Half of all American children, and half of all adults during their working years, receive food stamps at some point,” he says. “And that's not because people aren't trying to work hard and doing their best, but because the economy has created so much unemployment and low wages, and economic insecurity."

When food stamps are cut, hunger increases and the experts say that hunger carries even more long-term costs.

A study by the American Center for Progress points out that when children are hungry they do worse in school and education costs go up. Workers without enough food are less productive. Also, without adequate nutrition people get sick, so health care costs increase.

The total bill for failing to prevent hunger, the center says, adds up to more than $167 billion a year.

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