1 in 8 Texans are still experiencing food insecurity
Advocates say racial disparities in food insecurity continue to affect many children in Texas.
One in 8 Texans experiences food insecurity. According to Feeding Texas, 1.4 million households in the state and nearly 4 million individuals face hunger. That data also shows that access to food is a problem that disproportionately affects people of color.
Sharon Watkins Jones with the nonprofit advocacy group Children at Risk points to data from the hunger relief group Feeding America: Black, Indigenous and Latino households experience food insecurity at higher rates.
"Feeding America has predicted that 21% of Black individuals may experience food insecurity in 2021, compared to 11% of white individuals. And furthermore, 23.5% of Native American individuals, and 15.8% of Latino individuals may experience food insecurity, " Jones said during apanel discussion.
Children at Risk hosted a virtual summit of Texas groups that focus on food insecurity aide.
Across the state, food deserts persist — areas where people have limited access to affordable, healthy and quality food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website says 58 counties in Texas are considered food deserts according to criteria set up by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But community-led efforts help combat hunger in those areas. Kendra Richardson is the founder of Funky Town Fridge, a program that sets up refrigerators across Fort Worth that provide access to free food all day.
"It's literally just community showing up for community, so there are no questions asked," Richardson said. "Nobody has to give us a social, or how many people live in their household, or tell us how much they make, or whatever their job is, you just: are you hungry? Here's three fridges now down Berry, go find you one, and go get you some food, and go eat, it's that simple."
Mike Pomeroy is withBrighter Bites, a Houston-based nonprofit that delivers fresh foods to families across the state. He says children specifically are going hungry even more so because of the pandemic. “There's many studies that show lots of lower income children get the majority of their calories from eating at school."
He also says schools should promote healthy education and School Breakfast Programs in communities saturated with fast food options, but have little access to places that sell fresh foods.
Catherine Nicholson , North Texas regional director of the nonprofitTexas Hunger Initiative, says that when hunger affects a family, it can create a lot of health issues for family members, including the kids. She says school nutrition programs not only provide nutritious meals to kids in need, but it “relieves a fiscal burden on families trying to make ends meet.”
John Puder with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty says Texas regulations make it difficult to expand student access to free meals.
"If we were serious about feeding kids, we'd hand them a boxed lunch as they were getting on the bus to go home, but the rules simply don't allow that," Puder said. "I mean, these are things we could be doing to help feed a whole lot of kids. So if we make the priority feeding kids and not following all the different rules. We could feed so many more kids."
Initiatives like the North Texas Food bank also provide food to families and individuals in need.