National study shows food insecurity up in Central, Western Virginia

food bank-new2More families in Central and Western Virginia continue to struggle with hunger during the weak economic recovery, according to results from the recently released  Map the Meal Gap 2015. The study, conducted by Feeding America, measures food insecurity across the U.S., and includes new data for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank service region of 25 counties and nine cities.

Apart from the study, the Food Bank cites low-wage employment as a growing reason why working adults can’t cover all of their expenses, including the costs of daily, nutritious meals.

The study revealed that 146,000 neighbors in the region were food insecure in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. This is up from the 144,480 reported the previous year. Also, more children were reported to be food-insecure. More than 53,000 young people didn’t know when they would get their next serving of food, compared to the 51,670 previously reported. The study is based on statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013.

The study’s outcome lines up with national trends revealing weak wage growth and a loss of mid-wage jobs. A report from the National Employment Law Project showed 58 percent of jobs regained during the nation’s economic recovery were often low-wage and part-time without benefits.

Most telling are the rates of underemployment in the Food Bank’s service area, which includes people involuntarily working part time. Underemployment jumped to 13 percent in 2013 from 10.9 percent in 2012.

“We have increasingly become a lifeline for working families who struggle to make ends meet,” said Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “Separate research revealed that 60 percent of households served by the Food Bank report at least one person worked in the last year,” he added.

Food insecurity rates for specific communities within the Food Bank’s entire service area are available through an interactive map. Readers can also learn about hunger across the Commonwealth and the rest of the country at www.feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.

Map the Meal Gap 2015 provides unique insight into the prevalence of food insecurity in each county and congressional district in our nation,” said Matt Knott, president of Feeding America. “It will help policy makers and our elected officials understand the challenges they face in addressing hunger in the communities they serve.”

Map the Meal Gap is a detailed analysis of food insecurity done by Feeding America and the only study available that provides county-level estimates of food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen supported research for the study.

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