Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are you Food Secure?

Do you have enough food in your house to feed your family? Do you skip meals to stretch food throughout the week? Or until the next paycheck arrives? Have you begun to purchase food at the dollar store instead of the grocery store? Are you worried about providing for your children? Food insecurity is a term used to describe a lack of accessable food to provide a healthy diet obtained in an acceptable manner. While the use of food banks may provide food for the hungry, for most this is not a socially acceptable source. As the unemployment rate rises, food resources are seeing larger numbers of applicants and less donations. Demand at food cupboards increased 30% in 2008 according to a survey from Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion tons of food each year. These numbers were confirmed in Delaware County, PA food cupboards where directors reported a 34% increase in clients in September 2008 from September 2007. WIC, which provides supplemental food for low income pregnant women and children from birth to age five has also seen an increase that exceeds their capacity to provide infant formula, dairy products, beans and peanut butter and cereal to new families. A Philadelphia phone survey of 10,000 households in the five surrounding counties for the Community Health Data Base found that nearly one in ten suburban households, one in five urban households, skipped or cut back a meal due to lack of money. Unfortunately, cut backs can include healthy choices such as milk, vegetables and fruit. Lower quality food choices do not provide the nutrients needed to support good health and can lead to greater incidences of chronic disease. Ironically, obesity rates are highest in communities where food insecurity is highest. Fortunately the US Stimulus Bill that was passed this week will increase the money available for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), funding for food cupboards (TEFAP), WIC site support and school lunch and breakfast programs. Food resources are also available for seniors and WIC clients through summer fruit and vegetable vouchers, hot lunches at senior centers and afterschool snacks and summer meals for children at low income sites. Penn State Cooperative Extension provides educational resources to assist low income households stretch their food dollars, prepare lower cost meals that meet nutritional needs, and make better food purchases that are nutrient dense, not calorically dense. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and SNAP-Ed programs are federally funded to assist food stamp eligible persons to use their food dollars wisely. For more information on these programs in PA, check In Delaware Co, a conference will be held on March 6, 2009 to address many of the issues related to hunger, allow opportunities for networking and discuss solutions. The Changing Face of Hunger in Delaware County will be held at Widener University, Chester, PA . For a brochure, go to Penn State Cooperative Extension, Southeast Region, has also assembled resources on a website, Included are educational materials and classes to help you live better for less. Check out these materials and learn to grow a garden, stretch food dollars, purchase healthy food for less, find sources of free food and budget your money. I hope that you don’t feel food insecure in the year ahead.

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