The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates up to 45 million Americans live in a household where food is sometimes scarce or not available. About 11.5 percent of Iowans lived in a household considered “food insecure” by the U.S.D.A.
Tom Vilsack — the former Iowa governor who is now the nation’s Secretary of Agriculture — oversees the U.S.D.A., the agency which administers federal food programs.”Fortunately in the last year despite a difficult economy, the number of those families has leveled off and I think it’s a reflection of the work we’re doing to try to expand nutrition programs,” Vilsack says. “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly the food stamp program — we’ve been a dramatic increase in participation and that’s helped us keep those numbers where they are.”
At the end of August, nearly 352,000 Iowans lived in a household that received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. That’s a 12 percent increase compared to the same month last year. Vilsack says at some point during the past month, about 17 million Americans have wondered how they can come up with enough food for themselves and their families.
“So we obviously have to continue to work to expand nutrition programs and we have to continue to support food banks around the country and, most importantly of all, we have to work — as we are every day — to try to increase the number of job opportunities,” Vilsack says “As people go back to work, then, obviously there’ll be less pressure on the food banks and on (government) nutrition programs.”
The U.S.D.A. administers the program which provides free or reduced-price lunches to elementary and high schoolers who live in a low income household. According to the latest “Iowa Kids Count” report, one-third of the students in Iowa schools qualified to receive a free or reduced-price meal at school.