The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued its 2016 Household Food Security report. It finds about 12.3 percent of American households were food insecure at some point during 2016, down from 12.7 percent in 2015. The report indicates Vermont and New York followed that national trend.
According to the new report, 1 in 10 Vermonters experience food insecurity, an improvement over the previous 1 in 9. Hunger Free Vermont Executive Director Marissa Parisi says the group has actually seen a larger improvement than the report indicates. “The information that we got was from a three year average from 2014 to 2016. If you look at the previous data set of 2011 to 2013 we actually had a rate of 13.2 percent for the population experiencing food insecurity. That was actually as of 2013 1-in-8 Vermonters. But since that time we’ve actually dropped to 10.1 percent to 1-in-10. So that’s actually in the last, since 2013 to 2016 in that three year period we’ve seen a much more dramatic drop overall.”
Parisi explains there are a number of reasons that occurred. “The economy has improved and we’ve seen a lot of our new strategies in solving the problem of hunger taking hold. And in particular among children that is I think due to the expansion of summer meal programs, the expansion of the universal free school breakfast and lunch programs, more after school programs available to children along with the 3Squares Vermont, also known as the SNAP program helping their families at home. It’s really that strong safety net that has helped people be shielded from food insecurity.”
In New York, 12.5 percent of households were food insecure or had very low food security, a reduction of point-9 percent. That is not statistically significant, according to Hunger Action Network of New York state Executive Director Susan Zimet. She says the data reflects a status quo that is still above pre-recession levels. “Yes we’re getting slight declines but we’re still higher than we were before the recession. That’s not good news. We still have 41 million Americans living with food insecurity. We still have too many seniors and too many children and too many disabled and too many veterans and too many active duty military, too many college students, too many working poor that are basically wondering where they’re going to get their next meal. So I would say that no there has been no good news about hunger in America and that basically since the recession we’re still at higher numbers than we were before the recession. And basically if most Americans knew that we lived in a third world country I think they’d be pretty upset.”
The report finds food insecurity in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont is lower than the national average. In New York, the prevalence of very low food security - defined in the report as reduced food intake or disrupted eating patterns due to a household lacking resources to obtain food - is lower than the national average.