2,770 children go hungry here

An estimated one in six people live in Burnet County live in “food insecure” homes.

By Lew K. Cohn, Managing Editor
The Highlander

According to FeedingTexas.org, there are 2,770 children at risk of hunger in Burnet County as an estimated one in six people live in what are termed “food insecure” homes.

A food insecure home is one in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year,” according to FeedingTexas.org, formerly known as the Texas Food Bank Network, a non-profit, statewide 501(c)(3) organization which works to feed the hungry throughout the state.

Burnet County's numbers are on par with the state as 16.9 percent of Burnet County residents and 17 percent of Texas residents overall are living in “food insecure” homes. 28.2 percent of children live in these homes, which accounts for the 2,770 children noted earlier in this article.

According to the website, an estimated 3,993 people are potentially eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which includes 1,414 children, 2,110 adults and 469 seniors. Unfortunately, just under 51 percent of those actually do receive assistance as 1,967 people are not receiving food aid from SNAP when they are eligible.

While the cost per meal per person in Burnet County is 11.5 percent below the national average at $2.47 per meal, SNAP only covers about $1.15 of the $2.47 necessary for each meal in a household, according to the website.

The federal government currently defines poverty as a family of four living at or below an annual household income of $24,250. Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that one in six Texas households experienced food insecurity between 2013 and 2015.

Who gets help?

Demographically, about 60.4 percent of those receiving SNAP assistance in Burnet County live in what are considered “non-working” households, while 39.6 percent are listed as living in “working” households. Children make up 53.4 percent of SNAP recipients, while adults are 40 percent and seniors are 6.7 percent.

By race (without breaking out those who identify individually as Hispanic), 71.4 percent of SNAP recipients in Burnet County are “white,” while just 3.8 percent are black. There are 23.6 percent of SNAP recipients who either decline or fail to identify by race.

The remaining 1.1 percent breaks down into Asian (0.5 percent), Native American (0.4 percent), Pacific Islander (0.1 percent) and multi-racial (0.1 percent).

When factoring in those who identify as Hispanic, 38.1 percent of Burnet County SNAP recipients call themselves Hispanic, while 47.8 percent do not identify as Hispanic and 14.1 percent either decline or fail to identify this information.

Hunger Action Month

Burnet County is served by the Central Texas Food Bank (www.centraltexasfoodbank.org), which is located in Austin and is a member food bank of Feeding Texas. September 2016 has been identified as Hunger Action Month by the Central Texas Food Bank, which provides food and grocery products through a network of nearly 300 partner agencies and nutrition programs to serve nearly 46,000 people every week.

The Central Texas Food Bank serves 21 counties in Central Texas, an area about twice the size of Massachusetts. According to the agency, more than 471,000 people in Central Texas face hunger, of which 25 percent — one fourth — are children. Thus, this year they have begun their “Nothing Runs on Empty” campaign to call attention to hunger in Central Texas, including Burnet County, and to inspire Central Texas residents to donate, volunteer and advocate to help end hunger.

“Hunger Action Month plays a key role in helping us spread the word about how widespread hunger is here in Central Texas,” said Hank Perret, president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank. “It’s important that all of our neighbors have access to enough healthy food to reach their full potential; especially our children, who cannot grow, succeed or learn on an empty stomach.”

The food bank is running a social media awareness campaign in which supporters can share how it must feel to live with an empty stomach by posting or sharing a picture of them holding a paper plate and writing what they can't do on an empty stomach using the following wording: “On an empty stomach I can't ______.” They can use the hashtag #HungerActionMonth and tag @Central Texas Food Bank on Facebook, and @CTXFoodBank on Twitter and Instagram.

Supporters also can help fight hunger by volunteering at the Food Bank. Morning and afternoon volunteer shifts are available Mondays through Saturdays and evening shifts are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The food bank is also holding a voter registration drive at its 6500 Metropolis Drive location in Austin.

“While the Food Bank always needs and appreciates food and monetary donations, this year we’re also asking that Central Texans make sure to register to vote and then exercise their vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 8,” said Perret. “Why? Because many decisions made in Washington, D.C., and Austin affect the Food Bank, our partners and those we serve.

“The people we elect to represent us matter in the fight against hunger. That’s why we’re encouraging our Central Texas neighbors to become advocates in the fight against hunger by registering to vote, educating themselves on the issues and candidates, and voting on election day.”

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