Alabama among states with highest food insecurity; more than 1 in 5 kids growing up hungry

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822,109 Alabamians went to bed at night not always know where their next meal was coming from during the three-year time period of 2015-2017 making it the fifth most food insecure state in the country. That’s according to a new report released Monday by Hunger Free America, a New York-based nonprofit, based on an analysis of federal data. 

The report — the first ever “U.S. Hunger Atlas” found Alabama was consistently in the lists of the top ten states with the highest rates of food insecurity for employed adults, children, and older Americans (ages 60 and older).

It also found nearly 22 percent of all children, or 237,572 kids, in Alabama lived in households that couldn’t always afford enough food during that same time period. 

Working adults

While many would think only the unemployed are hungry, the report shed a light on the fact that 12.6 percent of working adults, or 256,923 people, in Alabama suffered from food insecurity from 2015-2017. Without a state minimum wage, most Alabama employees are covered under the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Meanwhile, the increased state minimum wage nationally correlated with declined hunger among working people in other states.

“It’s no surprise that we again found that states with higher minimum wages have less hunger among working people and states with lower minimum wages had more hunger among working people,” said Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg. “The claims of opponents of wage hikes — that such increases will harm employment rates and thus increase poverty and hunger — are clearly unfounded. This report should be a wake-up call to elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels that we need bold, comprehensive new economic and public polices to raise wages and ensure an adequate anti-hunger and anti-poverty safety net.”

Berg added, “While the nation rightfully focuses on whether a blue wave or a red wave changes our political leadership any given year, we must also focus on the reality that, since the 1980s, a red, white, and blue wave of hunger has submerged each of the fifty states of the U.S. in suffering, making America the only Western industrialized democracy with this level of food hardship. We simply cannot let mass deprivation be considered any sort of ‘new normal.’”

Additional Alabama findings

The report also found:

  • 11.4 percent of older Americans living in Alabama, a total of 122,400 people, were hungry during 2015-2017.
  • In states with a minimum wage set at $10 or above, an average of 8.6 percent of employed adults were found to be food insecure — more than a full percentage point below the national average of 9.7 percent. In states with a minimum wage set at $7.25 or below, an average of 9.9 percent of employed adults were food insecure.
  • Food insecure Alabama residents would need more than $428 million in additional food purchasing power each year to meet their basic food needs, spending as much on food as do non-hungry Alabama residents. The increased food purchasing power could take the form of a combination of higher wages and increased federal nutrition assistance spending.
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