(Host) The number of Vermont families struggling with "very low" food security has nearly doubled since 2002, and the state ranks above the national average.
That’s according to a recently released U.S. Agriculture Department study on households that lack consistent access to reliable food.
In Vermont, 9.6 percent of households reported food insecurity and 4.3 percent experienced very low food security. Maine was the only New England state that ranked above Vermont in the number of struggling households.
Joanne Hidecamp is Program Director for the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger. She says the number of households with very low food security held steady at around 2 percent throughout the 1990’s. She says she can only speculate on what’s behind the jump in recent years.
(Hidecamp) "A couple things have happened in that time period: the loss of manufacturing jobs in Vermont, and an increase in service sector jobs, which typically don’t pay as much. We have dramatically increased housing costs, fuel costs and food costs have increased far faster than people’s paychecks."
(Host) Nationally, the number of families experiencing food insecurity has held steady at 3.9 percent. Many of them are young families with children. Hidecamp says federal assistance is available and that it’s important for families to get assistance.
(Hidecamp) "So as communities, we really need to look at all those other strands of the nutrition assistance safety net, so that even if families can’t always put the best meals on that tables for the kids, when kids are at school, when kids are at child care, they can access nutritious meals through the federal nutrition programs."
(Host) Hidecamp says that Vermont uses the child care food program less than any state, other than New Hampshire. Also, many families eligible for food stamps are not enrolled, either because they’re unaware they qualify or because of other barriers to enrollment.