12.5 Percent of Maryland’s Households Struggling with Hunger
New Polling Data Show Broad Support for SNAP and Opposition to Cuts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kirsten Bokenkamp, 202-986-2200 x3974, 202-957-6611; firstname.lastname@example.org
Baltimore, MD – September 5, 2012 – One in eight households in Maryland struggled with hunger on average in the years 2009-2011, according to new data released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity. Nationally, more than 50.1 million people lived in households that were food insecure in 2011. These numbers show that high food insecurity rates continue to persist, even while some in Congress propose billions in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
New polling data (pdf) released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) show overwhelming majorities opposing SNAP cuts. The majorities are as strong as in other polls in 2010 and early 2012, despite several intervening months of criticism of the program and false charges by conservative Members of Congress, conservative media outlets, and others. In particular, when asked “[t]his year, Congress will consider cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program in an effort to reduce federal spending. Do you favor cutting food assistance to low-income families and seniors, or do you think that is the wrong way to reduce government spending,” 75 percent say it is the wrong way to reduce spending. That number was 77 percent in January 2012 and 71 percent in November 2010.
“Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the country, but with one in eight Maryland residents struggling against hunger, it is unacceptable that so many in Congress have proposed cuts to SNAP that would harm the most vulnerable among us – seniors, working families, and children,” said Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solutions. “Americans oppose cuts to SNAP, and they believe government should – and must – do more to address hunger.”
Seventy-nine percent of respondents to the FRAC poll support spending more (55 percent) federal money or about the same amount (24 percent) to address the problem of hunger, compared to only 17 percent who say the federal government should be spending less. Support for the SNAP program specifically and opposition to SNAP cuts are high among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; higher among women than men; high in all major geographic regions; and high among all age groups, especially among those aged 18 to 34. The poll of 1,011 adults was conducted by Hart Research Associates from August 23-26, 2012.
Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committee versions of the Farm Bill contain cuts to SNAP. The Senate plan for the Farm Bill includes a cut of more than $4 billion over 10 years to the program, achieved largely by reducing SNAP benefits for an estimated 500,000 households by $90/month. The House Agriculture Committee bill would make these same cuts plus end benefits totally for a minimum of 1.8 million people, cutting the program by $16 billion.
Among the 12.5 percent of people in Maryland households considered to be food insecure during the 2009-2011 period, 5.6 percent were living in households with “very low food security”, meaning they had more severe problems experiencing hunger and were forced to cut back or skip meals on a more frequent basis.
To raise awareness about hunger in the state, Maryland Hunger Solutions is hosting its third annual Food Stamp Challenge during the week of October 9-15. More than 150 people across the state, including elected officials and community leaders, are expected to join the Challenge and will pledge to use $30 per person (the average weekly benefit in Maryland) as their entire food budget during the challenge week.
“With the Food Stamp Challenge, we hope to shed a light on the struggles facing many in our state. While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the challenges encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding,” said Demeroto.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions is the lead research, public education, and advocacy group in Maryland, dedicated to using public programs to end hunger in Maryland. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. To learn more about Maryland Hunger Solutions and its upcoming Food Stamp Challenge, visit www.mdhungersolutions.org.
About the USDA Report
Since 1995, the United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. The report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity. Experts agree that the Census/USDA measure of food insecurity is a conservative one, with the result that only households experiencing substantial food insecurity are so classified.
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