MEDIA RELEASE: This Thanksgiving, North Carolina's rates of food insecurity are rising

This Thanksgiving, America faces record rates of food insecurity -- and North Carolina's families are particularly hard-hit
Food insecurity is growing as fast in North Carolina as any state in the country, and rates of hunger are well above the national average

RALEIGH (Nov. 23, 2009) -- As Thanksgiving approaches, North Carolina's families access to food is more tenuous than ever before. A new report by the USDA (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR83/ERR83.pdf) shows that food insecurity - the inability to provide enough food for a household - is at an all time high in the United States.

In North Carolina, the situation is even more dire, with the Tar Heel state tied for the fastest-growing rate of food insecurity in the U.S.

"While many Americans are getting ready to feast this Thanksgiving, a record number of Americans face a literal famine," said Louisa Warren, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center focusing on public benefits. "When more than a million children go to bed hungry in the U.S., we know it's long past time to act."

An astonishing 49 million Americans lacked dependable access to adequate food in 2008, Nearly 17 million children are in families in which food runs short, and almost 1.1 million children are sometimes outright hungry. Nationwide, 12.2 percent of families experience low or very low food security.

North Carolina's rate of food insecurity was well above the national average, with 13.7 percent of North Carolina households - about one in seven - experiencing low or very low food security.

North Carolina's food insecurity rates are also growing as fast as any other state. From 1996-2008, the report shows, North Carolina's rates of food insecurity grew 3.9 percent. This ties the state with Maine and Missouri for the fastest-growing rate.

"The rise in unemployment is definitely part of the reason for the increase," said Warren, "but this report also shows that more families experiencing food scarcity include at least one adult with a full-time job. This tells us that stagnant wages have devastated workers' ability to put food on the table."

The data was collected during December, 2008, so the national numbers capture the middle of the recession. Bleak as the report is, the situation is likely worse today, since the recession has deepened.

Rates of public benefits use demonstrate the need. In August 2008, 993,081 North Carolina households were on food stamps. A year later on August 2009, 1,231,886 NC households were using the Food & Nutrition Services program.

"With more families suffering, programs like food stamps are even more vital than before," said Warren. "Not only do these programs help families feed their hungry children, studies show public benefits like food stamps work to stimulate the local economy."

The report includes tables of state by state data on pages 20 and 21, showing the prevalence of food insecurity over time.  For the state tables, they combine three years of data.
Nationally, the data show:

    * The share of all households that were food insecure (unable at times over the year to afford adequate food) rose from 11.1 percent (1 in 9) in 2007 to 14.6 percent (1 in 7) in 2008. For households with children this share rose from 15.8% to 21.0%.

    * The share of households with very low food security (reduced intake because of lack of resources) rose from 4.1% to 5.7%, or by 42% (from 4.7 million households to 6.7 million).

    * The number of children where the respondent said the child experienced very low food security rose from 691,000 to 1,077,000.

    * 49 million people lived in food insecure households in 2008, an increase from 36 million in 2007. The 2008 figure is by far the highest on record since the survey began in 1995.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Louisa Warren, 919.801.0465.