One in five children in Augusta, Rockingham at risk of hunger issues

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, today released a new study which reveals that more than 20 percent of children under the age of 18 in Augusta County are struggling with hunger. In Rockingham County, more than 19 percent of children are food insecure.

The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011”, also reveals that there are children struggling with hunger in every county in America. Nationally, while one in six Americans overall is food insecure, the rate for children is much higher: nearly one in four children is food insecure.

“Between Augusta and Rockingham counties, more than 6,600 children are at risk of hunger. Imagine, 6,600 hungry children …,” said Larry Zippin, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “And the number of food insecure children in the surrounding localities is alarming as well. These are children we know and see every day. They are our neighbors – even your child’s best friend.”

The study is an important tool because it provides critical information for developing strategies to alleviate child hunger.

One way in which the food bank has been tackling child food insecurity is through several afterschool feeding programs, in particular, the BackPack Program, an initiative that provides children at risk of hunger with backpacks full of nourishing food to carry home on weekends and school vacations. Children at Wenonah, William Perry and Craigsville elementary schools have been benefitting from the program for several years. And the numbers are rising. The Food Bank has experienced a 17 percent increase in participation across all of its afterschool feeding programs in the Valley between the 2010 and 2011 school years.

Of the 6,600 children at risk of hunger in Augusta and Rockingham counties, more than 4 in 10 qualify for nutrition programs, such as SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) and other Federal Nutrition programs, but are not receiving the assistance because they are above 185 percent of poverty, making them ineligible.

By providing additional details about the face of child food insecurity at the county level, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” will enable food banks, the community based agencies they serve and policy makers to redefine approaches in addressing needs of hungry children and their families and develop more effective policy solutions.

This research is supported by ConAgra Foods Foundation. The ConAgra Foods Foundation funded this research with the goal of advancing the collective understanding of child hunger in America, so that resources at the local and national level could be better leveraged to help children and families in need.

The research is based on “Map the Meal Gap 2011: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level”, supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Nielsen.

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