Roundtable Offers Food for Thought – and Action – on Food Insecurity
Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a roundtable discussion with Kevin Concannon, under secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Service. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks convened the conversation, inviting 20 organizations including a few of our members (The Columbus Foundation, Nationwide Insurance Foundation and the United Way of Central Ohio). The conversation kicked off with a viewing of a short portion of Paycheck to Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, an HBO documentary on poverty. It set the stage for a discussion on poverty and food insecurity, set against the backdrop of the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty.
Much of the next two hours’ conversation focused on food insecurity, one of the most visible indicators of poverty, and I learned a lot about how Ohioans access food programs:
- 1.78 million Ohioans received SNAP (food stamp) benefits in January;
- The average monthly SNAP benefit is $121 per person;
- 75% of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person;
- More than 50% of SNAP households with children had earned income;
- One-quarter of Ohio’s children live in food insecure households; and
- More than half of babies born in Ohio are eligible for WIC.
I also recently heard about a new report by Howard Fleeter and Associates that creates an Ohio Hunger Factors Index. It analyzes historic and current economic indicators that influence hunger to create an index: an index value of 0 would show no poverty, no unemployment, etc. The 2012 index is pegged at 13.38, compared to 7.06 in 2007.
Philanthropy in Ohio devotes millions of dollars a year to alleviating poverty, trying to both repair and maintain the safety net and to make systemic changes that address the root causes of poverty. Some of this work will be showcased at our Summer Institute on July 9, during a session devoted to digging deeply into a case study of Bridges out of Poverty as a model of collective impact led by funders.