Food insecurity a lingering problem in Michigan

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Lansing, Mich. (Michigan News Service): While the state’s economy has improved in recent years, a new report says 1 in 7 Michigan households still struggles to avoid hunger.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show Michigan’s rate of food insecurity dropped slightly from 2014 to 2015 to 14.9 percent.

Phillip Knight, executive director of the Food Bank of Central Michigan, explains these are families that either faced hunger or sought assistance to avoid it.

“Food insecurity is simply defined as, ‘I don’t have enough access to healthy food today or tomorrow,'” he states. “And so there are families across Michigan that are going to miss six meals a week.”

Nationally there was a significant drop in food insecurity, down about 2 percentage points to 13.7 percent.

Michigan ranks 16th among states with 3.9 million food insecure households.

Knight says while economic insecurity is an underlying factor in food insecurity, hunger must be addressed first in order for families to get ahead.

“If you’re hungry, you only have one problem,” he stresses. “Your mind’s really not free to think about education, or health care or getting a better job. You’re thinking about what am I going to eat today and what am I going to give my kids.”

Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, says action must be taken on the state and federal level.

“We need higher employment rates,” he stresses. “We need better wages for low-income workers and we need stronger government support programs.

“We need a stronger food stamp program, a stronger school lunch and school breakfast and child care food programs.”

There are 602,000 low income Michigan children receiving free or reduced price lunches, but only about half of them are getting a school breakfast, which experts say is one way to reduce food insecurity among children.

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