What the U.S. Census Poverty Data Tells Us About Our Path to Ending Hunger

September 14th, 2012 § 0 comments

Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau unveiled the 2011 poverty data. 46.2 million Americans, including 16 million children are poor. The federal poverty threshold in 2011 was $11,484 for an individual and $23,021 for a family of four. America’s poverty rates have not been this high in over half a century, and for the last three years, we seem to be stuck there. These figures, while grim, do provide some insight on what’s working in our fight to end hunger, and where our opportunities lie for even greater change.  Here’s what we know:

  1. Food stamps works. The federal  poverty level calculation  excludes assets such as owning a home, as well as social safety net programs such as as food stamps. The census now helps us understand the impact social safety net programs have on American families with this alternative poverty measure  chart According to census figures food stamps lifted 3.9 million individuals out of poverty including 1.7 million children and helped keep food on the table.
  2. The slowly rising tide of economic recovery is not lifting all boats. Income inequality has increased between 2010 and 2011, the first time since 1993. Also, low and middle income families continue to be disproportionately impacted by the recession. Unless you were near the top, median incomes declined for most Americans. What this means is that low and middle income families will take longer to recover from the recession.  Even when the recession is long over, our Food Bank will probably still see long lines for quite some time.
  3. Texas’ long history with high poverty needs to end. Texas has the 6th highest rate of poverty in the nation, nearly 3 percent higher than the national rate.  One in four Texas children live in poverty and more than one third of Texas families are working poor (making less than $46,042 for a family of four).  According to research by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Texas has owned the title for having a poverty rate higher than the national rate for thirty years running. And, Texas doesn’t make it easy for the poor.Enough is enough. Until Texas starts adding jobs that can support the cost of living, we should not be cutting aid to struggling families. The Capital Area Food Bank needs your voice now more than ever to advocate for change and protect the social safety net.
  4. Central Texas has an even longer road ahead. Austin is also listed as the second fastest growing large metro areas in the nation. Disproportionally poor populations including minority children and older adults also happen to be some of the fastest growing populations in Central Texas. This imperfect growing storm will put more pressure on social service nonprofits in Central Texas.Our Food Bank saw a 62 percent increase in requests for food assistance from 2006 to 2010 and we are already operating at capacity, pushing on average 2 million pounds of food out of the warehouse every month. We’re struggling to keep up with need as it is, especially with recent sharp declines in federal food donations from The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Any proposed cuts in food stamps will have a devastating effect on families, and will make it difficult for social service nonprofits like the Capital Area Food Bank to keep pace with future demand.

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