More than a half-million Michigan households reported serious problems affording adequate nutritious food at some point last year, according to new data released Thursday (9.5) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Those included some 200,000 Michigan households that experienced very low food security – meaning that one or more household members had to reduce their food intake at least some time during the year.
Overall, the number of Americans facing food insecurity in 2012 stayed the same this year with 17.6 million households, 14.5 percent, of the total population, nationwide.
In Michigan 13.4 percent of households was food insecure in 2010-2012, the same as 2007-2009. Food insecurity, however, has jumped dramatically from 9.2 percent of households in 2000-2002.
Data for Oakland and Macomb county residents was not broken out by the researchers.
“Too many Michigan families struggle to make ends meet with nearly one in every seven households experiencing food insecurity,’’ said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director of the Michigan League for Public Policy.
“We’ve had more than a 45 percent jump in food insecurity over a decade. Despite a slow economic recovery, it’s clear that food assistance is so very vital to millions of families, seniors, people with disabilities and unemployed Americans.”
One of the most powerful weapons against hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also called the Food Assistance Program in Michigan. Some 1.8 million people in Michigan participate in SNAP and use its benefits to help put a basic diet on the table each day.
SNAP benefits are modest, providing less than $1.50 per person, per meal. Even so, they have a significant impact in reducing poverty. In 2011 alone, SNAP helped to lift 5.7 million Americans, including 2.1 children out of poverty, based on the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.
The new data are yet another indication that the economy still has not yet fully recovered from the deep recession and that millions of families continue to struggle with job loss, reduced wages, and poverty.
Jerry Wolffe is the Advocate-at-Large/Writer in Residence at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.