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Science teacher Brandy Stroud helps sophomore Desi Smallwood and Megan Faulkenburg, right, during an exercise at one of the lab stations in one of the four renovated science classrooms at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School. Photos by Chris Adams

Crawford ranks high in food insecurity


September 14, 2011
The woes of the economical hardships of the last four years have hit the entire country. And Indiana hasn't escaped the downturn. A new report by the group Feeding Indiana's Hungry indicates that up to 13 percent of Indiana's households are food insecure. And Crawford County ranks in the upper five counties of the highest percentage for food insecurity.

Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as the uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

According to the study, overall, 1 in 6 Americans live in a household that is food insecure. In Indiana, 24.5 percent of children younger than 18 are struggling with hunger.

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CCJSHS library director Cheryl Burden, left, and Karen Sheller, the school’s principal, take a break from moving materials into the renovated media center. Located in the middle of the school, the media center did not have any windows but now features two large skylights.
"These new numbers show that food insecurity has continued to rise in Indiana roughly a percent a year, while, nationally, numbers remained steady or improved this year," Emily Welkert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana's Hungry, said in a press release. "Combined with recent reports from Feeding America and other anti-hunger advocates, a clear picture is painted to show that hunger does exist in Indiana and it will not go away on its own. We must address this critical need head-on to ensure that our citizens are getting the help necessary to succeed in school and in the workplace and that our seniors do not go without."

That is the most important issue, say Jackie Young and Mary Talmadge, who both work for Purdue University's Family Nutritional Program.

"Senior citizens are having a hard time," Talmadge said. "There's seniors out there now who are drawing $1,100 a month from Social Security, and they're not making it. And if you're not in senior housing, you can just about forget about getting help. Social Security is based on your work history. I have clients who only draw $400 a month. How can they possibly get by?"

Young said that food insecurity is an issue that is easily ignored.

"No one wants to hear us," she said. "In a rural county, there's transportation issues and limited options to buy food. And when you're further out, it costs more to deliver products, which increases prices. If you buy a loaf of bread in Crawford County, you'll probably see a price difference if you buy a similar loaf of bread in Corydon. That little bit of difference, spread over all the items you need every month, mounts up to an increased cost of living. And Social Security benefits haven't been increased in two years, even though the cost of living has increased considerably. That has created a hardship for a lot of people."

Nationally, according to the report, among the 49 million Americans facing hunger in the United States, more than 126 million are children. Five million households experiencing food insecurity include at least one senior citizen.

"Many Hoosiers who are food insecure are also experiencing unemployment or underemployment, which remains at historically high levels," Bryant said in the report. "As Congress and the administration look for ways to reduce the federal deficit, it is more critical than ever to protect nutrition programs that provide the first line of defense against hunger in America."

Food pantries and other agencies that help feed the needy and elderly are experiencing their own difficulties as the cost of transportation increases and the number of people who need help keeps growing each month.

"Seniors here get $15 a month in food stamps," Young said. "It used to be $12. But that doesn't go very far when you're buying groceries for a month."

"I'm concerned about the children, but I'm really concerned about the senior citizens," Talmadge added. "Once you hit a certain age, you're a throwaway. You have a lot of life experience, you're dependable, but no one wants you and a job is out of the question. If the economy bottoms out, the first to suffer is the elderly. The second is the children and people with special needs."

Last spring, Feeding America conducted a study to reveal food insecurity rates at the county level. The study showed that hunger exists in all 92 Indiana counties, ranging from 10 percent in Hamilton County to 22 percent in Fayette County.

"The only way out of this is jobs and education," Young said. "And even the hope of a job can keep people going. The government has been a bad parent, rewarding bad behavior. But safety nets are needed.

"When I go to elementary schools, I see kids that I've seen at their homes. School is the most peaceful place they know. Small children have to have regular meals, and school is the best part of their day: they have a routine and two meals a day. School is a saving grace for a lot of these kids. If not for the schools and the Head Start programs run by Lincoln Hills Development (Corp.), I don't know what a lot of these kids in Crawford County would do."

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