Study finds big surge in Idahoans at risk - 02/04/2010

posted Feb 9, 2010, 4:30 PM by Karla Reynolds   [ updated Feb 16, 2010, 7:42 PM ]


Roy Lacey, vice president of operations for the Idaho Foodbank, talks at a press conference in the Bannock County Commissioners chambers, Wednesday, outlining the upswing in food that is needed this year as compared to previous years.
POCATELLO — One of the largest hunger studies ever conducted in the United States shows the number of people in Idaho who are at risk of going hungry has increased dramatically.    The study showed 142,200 different people in Idaho received emergency food in 2009, a 59 percent increase from 2006. Particularly disturbing is the fact that 10     conference at the Bannock County Courthouse Wednesday. “We see men and women waiting in line in some instances up to three hours to get a food box.”    The Idaho Foodbank provided emergency food an average of 24,000 times a month in East Idaho last year. Total pounds of food distributed by the food bank in East Idaho in 2009 increased 31 percent from 2008.    The landmark study was released Wednesday by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Feeding America food banks, such as the Idaho Foodbank, provided free food assistance to 37 million people last year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors.   That’s a 46 percent increase from 2006.    The study showed a dramatic growth of hunger in Idaho and across the country. According to the study, nearly one in 10 Idahoans receives emergency food.    Only 36 percent of food bank recipient households in Idaho receive food stamps.    The report was the first national research study to capture the connection between the recent economic downturn and the increased need for free emergency food assistance.    Lacey said the Idaho Foodbank conducted a separate study in September and October   that showed the problem is not improving.    “Things are getting worse,” he said.    Lacey and local city and county officials said the statistics should serve as a call to arms, to local government officials as well as private citizens.    “We need to ask all the patrons of this county to step up and ... make sure we take care of people,” said Bannock County Commissioner Karl Anderson.    The Idaho portion of the study was based on 509 in-person interviews at more than 40 locations and was conducted over a 12-week period between February   and April 2009. It included 180 written surveys filled out by the Idaho Foodbank’s partner agencies.    Guidelines for the study were set by the national independent research firm Mathematica, which also calculated the results and compiled the final reports.    The study jibed with a USDA estimate in November that 144,000 Idahoans, including 65,500 children, were at risk of hunger.    Lacey said donations to the Idaho Foodbank have increased recently, in spite of the bad economy. But it hasn’t been enough to keep up with the increased demand for emergency food.    For example, the Idaho Foodbank distributed 6.3 million pounds of free food in 2008, 7.87 million pounds in 2009, and expects to distribute 8 million pounds this year.    “We’re finding more food, but we’re also finding more people,” Lacey said.