Millions of Texans at risk of hunger despite economic recovery

Published 8:54 am Monday, September 28, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas News Service) — One-point-seven million Texas households experienced hunger or engaged in coping mechanisms to avoid it at some point last year.

That’s more than any other state except California, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Celia Cole, CEO with Feeding Texas, says school meal programs and food stamps, now called SNAP, are working, but more needs to be done to protect families.

“We’ve made some significant gains in Texas in recent years in making sure eligible families are connected to SNAP,” says Cole. “But the fact we’re still seeing one in six Texas households struggling to avoid hunger, in a fully recovered economy, is cause for some alarm.”

The report shows more than 17 percent of families in Texas, compared with the national rate of just over 14 percent, were at risk of hunger in 2014. Cole adds the number of households facing food insecurity in the state remained statistically unchanged from three years ago.

The report also found 87 percent of Americans who experience food insecurity live in households earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty line, the equivalent of $37,000 a year for a family of three.

Cole says this means thousands of Texas families, working full-time jobs, are still having a hard time meeting their basic needs.

“We need to increase our investment in the food programs that help people get by when they’re not earning enough,” she says. “But at the end of the day, as a nation, we need to do more to create opportunities so families can make ends meet on their own.”

Cole calls the report’s findings “a wake up call,” and is urging policy makers to take a hard look at why the economy is not producing enough jobs that allow workers to stop worrying about their next meal.