Connecticut’s Food Insecurity Rate Steady While National Rate Declines
by Bernie Beaudreau
Despite lower rates of unemployment and a stronger economy, Connecticut has not seen a significant change in its food insecurity rate, according to the latest USDA study on food security release last week.¹ Based on a national survey² of randomly selected households, including over 1,000 interviewed in Connecticut, the percentage of all households experiencing food insecurity in 2017 was 12.2 percent, accounting for nearly 450,000 Connecticut residents. This is well above the pre-recession level of 8.8 percent in 2007. While there have been several years of post-recession recovery, with more workers employed, many of the state’s poorest residents have not seen the benefits of a stronger economy.
One in eight people living in Connecticut are food insecure, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. One in six children in Connecticut live in food insecure homes.
Nationally, however, there has been a significant reduction in food insecurity over the past six-year measurement period, with 12.3 % food insecure in 2015-2017, down from 14.3% in 2012-2014. Nationally, households with children experience higher food insecurity rates at 15.7%, compared to those with no children at 10.1%. Black and Hispanic households are more than twice as likely to be food insecure than white households, with the Black food insecurity rate at 21.8%, Hispanic rate at 18.0% and white rate at 8.8%. Almost 1 out of 3 female-headed households with children struggle with hunger, having a food insecurity rate of 30.3%.
The Connecticut Food Bank has seen a constant if not growing demand for food throughout its network of over 690 partner programs who help distribute food to residents in need. A survey of 120 of the larger food pantries in the spring of 2018 indicated that 63% of the food pantries saw the need for food increasing in the past year, with only 2% reporting a decrease in the demand for food assistance.
Factors contributing to the persistence of hunger in Connecticut include the slow growth in living wage jobs in the post-recession economy and the high cost of living in the state. According to the United Way’s 2018 ALICE³ report, 40 percent of Connecticut’s households have incomes that are below the level needed to pay for basic necessities.
Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare are Connecticut’s two regional food banks serving the state, part of the Feeding America national network of 200 food banks. Each year, Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare distribute enough food to provide more than 32 million meals through a network of 1,000 community-based hunger-relief programs, including food pantries, community meal sites, emergency shelters, residential and other community programs.
¹ See: Household Food Security in the United States, 2017, ERR-256, USDA, Economic Research Service see: https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=90022
² Household food security statistics are based on a measure of food security calculated from responses to a series of 10 questions, with an additional 8 questions if children are in the household, about conditions and behaviors that characterize households when they are having difficulty meeting basic food needs. See page 3 in Household Food Security in the US 2017: see: https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/90023/err-256.pdf?v=0