A U.S.D.A. report issued earlier this month concluded just over 11-and-a-half percent of Iowa households are “food insecure.”
It means the adults and children who live in those Iowa homes sometimes go without food for a day at a time — and many eat food that’s cheaper, but with low nutritional value, just to have something to eat. The U.S.D.A’s Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services is Kevin Concannon, a man who served as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services from 2003 ’til 2008.
“I think reports like this one, which has been coming out annually now for 14 or 15 years, are and should be an occasion for us to get as serious as we can be as a country and as individuals about hunger,” Concannon says.
This year, more than 36 million Americans are enrolled in SNAP — the “supplemental nutrition assistance program” which used to be known as the food stamp program.
“Many of your listeners may not be aware that in the Department of Agriculture some 70 percent of the agency’s total budget goes into feeding programs,” Concannon says. “I know when speaking to people outside of government informally they’re surprised by that. I don’t think they realize that the federal government has made a commitment in this order.”
In addition, the federal government provides free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast at school for millions of American kids. Concannon says 31 million American children get those meals at school each weekday.
“For many of these children in these households, in these very poor households, that school lunch or school breakfast may be the principle source of food and nutrition that particular day,” Concannon says. “And at USDA we have been on a sustained effort to make access to these programs — the SNAP program, the school breakfast program, the school lunch program — more available to individuals and families.”
Last year, an average of 256,000 Iowans were enrolled in the federally-funded food assistance program each month. The average monthly payment to an individual Iowan was just less than a hundred dollars.