Thursday, April 18, 2024

Surveys: Families’ Food Insecurity Grows Ahead of Thanksgiving

Around 41% of low-income parents and 45% of middle-income parents noticed a negative attitude in their child’s behavioral and physical health when they don’t have enough to eat. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — New surveys find food insecurity has risen in Virginia and across the U.S.

No Kid Hungry’s survey finds more than half of families in Virginia said it’s harder to afford food for their kids. Most of them cited rising food prices. Parents Together Action’s recent survey finds similar results, noting 62% of families have to reduce healthy options to be able to afford food. One respondent to the Parents Together Action survey says she’s skipping lunch to ensure she can afford to feed her kids.

Ailen Arreaza, executive director of Parents Together Action, said a confluence of crises is pushing family stability to a breaking point.

“Parents are saying they’re receiving less SNAP benefits, they’re saying they’ve had to start repaying student loans, they’re saying that their kids were getting free school lunch and they no longer are getting it. Some kids are losing Medicaid coverage due to continuous enrollment ending, and there’s a child-care crisis,” she explained.

She added an interconnected policy approach is the only way forward. But Arreaza is worried cuts to federal programs could hamstring families’ ability to have a source of steady meals. Although the federal government is funded by a continuing resolution, WIC cuts which could be implemented in the next budget would amount to around 103,000 Virginians losing those benefits.

Along with using local food banks, Arreaza said community organizations are stepping in to fill the gaps in policy. But, it’s still not enough. She describes what must come next to ensure families are getting enough to eat.

“Parents are listening and they are struggling. Families are struggling, and unless we implement policies that will help them, they will continue to struggle. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be this way, and I think parents are starting to realize that,” she said.

Arreaza added elected officials need to step up and put legislation in place to ensure families can afford food, child care and much more. Other suggestions include alerting families to programs that can help them. The No Kid Hungry Survey finds 53% of low-income families didn’t know about food assistance programs or found the application was difficult.

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