Study: Food security linked to poverty

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

For some residents of this country, the availability of food is not always guaranteed.
There are many reasons a household would have low or very low food security, one of which is poverty.
According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture from 2012 to 2014, poverty levels and the availability of food seem to correlate.
“I think there are a lot of determinants for food insecurity, one of which is income,” said USDA Research Economist Christian Gregory, who is one of three authors of a study that analyzed food security between 2012 and 2014 in America.
Of the 1.1 million households in Mississippi, 1,683 were polled for the 2012 to 2014 study. The study allows for a 1.41 percent margin of error for the results in this state.
Their study, conducted via a series of questions, shows that food insecurity in the state of Mississippi seems to be increasing over the past decade.
From 2002 to 2004 the percentage of households reporting low or very low food security was 15.8 percent. From 2009 to 2011 that percentage increased to 19.2 percent and from 2012 to 2014 it jumped to 22 percent, the study states.
Between 2012 to 2014, Mississippi reported the most food insecure households per capita in the nation. Ohio had the second highest rate with 16.9 percent.
As a region, the South reported the most homes that were food insecure, at 20.9 percent from 2012 to 2014. The Midwest followed at 18.4 percent.
In Pearl River County, the poverty rate was reported to be 19.3 percent of the responding households.
Statewide, that percentage was 21.9 percent. Statistics on food security for individual counties was not included in the report for security reasons, Gregory said.
While children also reported living in households with low or very low food availability, the elderly are also affected, whether they live with someone else or alone.
According to the study, nationwide 5.5 percent of households involving senior citizens living alone reported food insecurity, and 3.8 percent reported very low food security.
Information about homes occupied by the elderly dealing with food insecurity in individual states was not included in the study.
Outside of poverty, Gregory said there are a number of other factors that could lead to food insecurity in America’s homes, including disability status, being a single parent regardless of sex and being on a fixed income, which is the case for many senior citizens.
If someone is disabled, they too are on a fixed income, and have little opportunity to make extra money compounded by medical expenses, Gregory said.
Households with a single parent are also vulnerable to food insecurity.
Gregory said that while single mothers are particularly vulnerable, single fathers also face the challenge of securing enough food for the family.
As for households where a senior citizen is living alone, the same could be true because they too live on a fixed income.
The price of food also has an affect on the availability of full meals in these situations. Gregory said the study found that when the last recession occurred between 2007 and the middle of 2008 the price of food spiked, leaving a lot of households on fixed incomes vulnerable.
There are some avenues that can provide assistance, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for those on disability, the unemployed and senior citizens.
Expecting mothers and post partum mothers can enroll in the WIC program for up to five years. And there are child nutrition programs, such as the summer feeding program and free lunch programs implemented by local school districts. All of these programs can help fill the nutritional gap, Gregory said.
One benefit of SNAP is that when the price of food increases, so does the amount of assistance. Gregory said that increase is determined by an index of a certain set of groceries representative of a diet for a family of a certain size.
Locally, a number of food pantries are attempting to provide food to those who need it as well.
For information on SNAP, visit
For information on WIC in Mississippi visit,0,128.html. According to the website, applications for WIC must be filed in person at the local WIC clinic, located at 7063 U.S. 11 in Carriere.

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