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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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10 percent of county population is at risk of hunger
New study shows 5,570 people in Franklin County don’t know where next meal will come from

Friday, July 19, 2013

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Feeding America's annual Map the Meal Gap study has found that 5,570 people in Franklin County do not know where they will find their next meal.

That means 10 percent of the county's population is at risk of hunger.

"The economy has gotten so bad that, lately, people who have exhausted their limit at the local food banks are now coming to us, asking for help with food," said Joanne Patterson, executive director and founder of Stepping Stone Mission soup kitchen in Rocky Mount.

"I don't see where the need for food is improving or even holding steady. It is definitely getting worse. I've had some who come into the mission to eat, but they have no gas in their vehicles to get back home."

The Map the Meal Gap study rates food insecurity for both the general population and children under the age of 18.

By analyzing household income levels, the study reveals that 77 percent of children at risk of hunger in Franklin County are eligible for federal nutrition programs, like free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast, but that 23 percent are not.

The estimates are calculated at both the county and congressional-district level for the entire United States. Overall, one in six people in Southwest Virginia struggle to put food on their tables. 

"This new data confirms what we've been seeing - that too many people are at risk of hunger right here at home," said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia (FASWVA). "Food insecurity is one of the leading public health challenges in the United States, and it's affecting a large population in Franklin County."

"We are particularly concerned about children who are under-nourished," she added.

"I am seeing a lot of new faces at the kitchen lately," said Patterson. "School is out, and some families are coming in with four and five children who need to be fed."

Children who do not receive adequate nutrition may experience behavioral problems, have difficulty concentrating in school and have an increased risk of medical problems, Irvine said.

"Lack of adequate nutrition in children, for even a brief period of time, may also cause permanent physical and developmental impairments," she added.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million people nationwide are food insecure.

This is the third year that Feeding America has conducted the Map the Meal Gap study. The findings of Map the Meal Gap are based on statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food price data and analysis were provided by Nielsen, a global information and measurement company providing insights into what consumers watch and buy.

The study was supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Nielsen and The ConAgra Foods Foundation.

FASWVA, serving 26 counties and 10 cities in the region, is part of the Feeding America network and is the nation's largest hunger-relief organization. Its programs distribute food for 13 million meals annually and strives to meet the demand.

Each month, an average of 122,000 people in the region are served. Partner programs include faith-based and community food pantries, homeless shelters, after school and summer children's programs, senior feeding programs, community kitchens and other nonprofit organizations that provide food, meals and other items to hungry people.

Since 2008, FASWVA has experienced a 57-percent increase in food distributed, as well as a 52-percent increase in the number of households receiving emergency groceries served through their 405 partner feeding programs. 

For more information, visit www.faswva.org.

For additional data and maps, visit www.feedingamerica.com/mapthegap.

 
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