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Report: Alabama hunger soaring after federal aid cuts

That figure represents 12.8 percent of Alabama residents and includes 17.3 percent of children.

A shelf of a kitchen fridge that is bare with no food STOCK

More than 625,000 Alabamians lived in food insecure households from 2020-2022 according to a new report based on USDA data.

That figure represents 12.8 percent of Alabama residents and includes 17.3 percent of children in the state (189,871), 9 percent of employed adults (192,921), and 9.2 percent of older Alabama residents (109,485).

Hunger Free America, the nonprofit organization that released the report, attributes the surge in food insecurity to the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit and universal school meals. Many federal benefit increases have either gone away entirely, or are being ramped down, even as prices for food, rent, healthcare, and fuel continue to soar.

“Our report demonstrates child and adult hunger are serious problems in rural, urban, and suburban areas of all 50 states. This report should be a jarring wake up call for federal, state, and local leaders,” said Joe Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “Effective federal public policies over the previous few years were spectacularly successful in stemming U.S. hunger, but as many of those policies have been reversed, hunger has again soared. At exactly the moment when so many Americans are in desperate need of relief, many of the federally funded benefits increases, such as the Child Tax Credit and universal school meals, have expired, due mostly to opposition from conservatives in Congress.”

This year, Hunger Free America also compiled the most recent nonparticipation rates for SNAP, WIC, and school breakfast programs by state. In Alabama, 22 percent of individuals eligible for SNAP were not receiving SNAP in 2018. WIC had the highest rate of nonparticipation, with 50 percent of eligible individuals in the state not receiving WIC in 2021. School breakfast also had a high nonparticipation rate, with 41 percent of children who receive school lunch in Alabama not receiving school breakfast during the 2021-2022 school year.

Two out of every three elderly residents eligible for SNAP benefits were not participating.

The report includes proposed policy objectives that Hunger Free America believes will close these gaps in food security:

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  • Immediately fully fund the WIC program for pregnant women, infants, and children under five, including maintaining increased allotments for fruit and vegetable purchases
  • Enact the provisions of the HOPE Act of 2021 (H.R.2336/S. 1181) – sponsored by Senator Gillibrand and Reps. McGovern, Pingree, Morelle, and Espaillat – to authorize $35 million for pilot projects at the state, county, city, and tribal levels to a) Leverage client-facing technology to better coordinate access to multiple government anti-poverty, health care, nutrition, housing, tax, and work support benefits, and; b) Provide extra resources and technical assistance to enable low-income people to voluntarily work with local nonprofit groups and government agencies to develop assets (by buying a first home, starting a small business, saving money to pay for college, etc.) to achieve long-term self-advancement benchmarks.
  • Pass a Farm Bill that restores higher allotments in SNAP (formerly called food stamps); restores pandemic-era improvements in SNAP access for college students; enables SNAP recipients to purchase hot food at stores; ensure universal eligibility for the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program; makes it easier for active duty military families to obtain SNAP; increases the amount of — and improves the nutritional quality of – food distributed through charities; increases programs that help low-income Americans shop at farmers markets; and provides seed funds and technical assistance to community-based food enterprises that produce and sell healthy foods.
  • Re-fund the expanded Child Tax Credits for struggling families.
  • Fully fund the AmeriCorps national service program, including the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Increase living allowances for AmeriCorps national service participants. Right now, many AmeriCorps members earn less than the meager federal minimum wage, which greatly hampers recruitment, making it difficult for the non-wealthy to serve.
  • Raise the national minimum wage by indexing it to median family income in each state

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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