This week, a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was released showing that Texas households are still some of the hardest hit by food insecurity in the nation. According to the USDA, eighteen percent of Texas households (one in six) were found to have experienced hunger or engaged in coping mechanisms to avoid it.
Food insecurity and hunger have remained prevalent in Texas despite the economic recovery currently taking place. As the Texas Food Bank Network pointed out, “Texas was one of just eight states confirmed to have more food insecurity than the nation as a whole” between 2011 and 2013. Overall, Texas has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with 1.7 million households that are food insecure.
Given Texas Republican lawmakers' attitude toward hunger–slashing food stamps time and time again–it's sadly no surprise that Texans are still struggling to get by.
Last fall, the US House let billions of dollars of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) go into effect. 4 million Texans are enrolled in SNAP, which is about 15% of the population. Thanks to those cuts, over 670,000 elderly or disabled, and more than 2.3 million children saw their food stamp benefits decrease.
That came just weeks after House Republicans passed another $40 billion cut to the SNAP budget, which left 3.8 million people without food stamp benefits in 2014 alone. Thanks to the cuts, an additional 3 million are set to lose food stamp benefits each year for the next decade.
Every single Texas Republican in the House voted in favor of slashing food stamp benefits. With that record, it's no wonder that Texas' food insecurity rate has remained statistically unchanged over the past three years, even though the economy has been recovering.
In a statement, Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, spoke about what is necessary to help lift Texans out of hunger:
- “What these data tell us is that low-income Texans continue to stumble on the road to economic recovery, despite the progress we have made as a state and nation. Clearly the rising tide is not lifting every boat.
We feed those who must stand in line at food pantries in order to make ends meet. But we also want to work with our partners in business, philanthropy and government to shorten that line. We need to do more to connect people to jobs with a pathway out of poverty, as well as to resources that can help them address the health consequences of hunger. By linking our hunger relief efforts with other assistance we can improve the health and economic stability of these families and break the cycle of poverty. We call this feeding with impact.”
When the Texas Legislature convenes this January, they'll have the opportunity to address the issue–as long as helping hungry Texans takes precedence over politics.