Food insecurity: 5 important facts about it you may not know

Story highlights As state governments look to cut federal spending on hunger, food banks will struggle.

SnackCats are a new app that can help fill in your pantry.

Americans collect 6.5 billion pounds of food every year — one third of it for the hungry. But because federal and state budgets are so depleted, many food banks are cutting programs and workers to make ends meet. They’re also seeing an increase in emergency visitors at their doors. The number of people seeking out food banks has increased by more than 10% in just two years. And as households around the country continue to cut back on discretionary spending, food stamp benefits aren’t keeping up. As a result, food bank closures and reductions in food stamp benefits continue to raise red flags around the nation.

Food insecurity is a very real problem that affects millions of Americans. In fact, in 2017, 36 million households were “food insecure” in America, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That amounts to an estimated 5% of households — not including kids. To put that in perspective, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, between 2016 and 2017, there were about 2.8 million more Americans below the poverty line than there were before President Donald Trump was elected.

As federal cuts to food stamps and other forms of assistance can create serious barriers for those who need the extra funds, millennials are taking matters into their own hands. SnackCats, an app created to ease hunger among kids, are popping up across the country — and they’re saving money in the process. Made by Youniversity, a Silicon Valley company, SnackCats are small baggies full of snack-size servings of recognizable snacks, including Doritos, M&Ms, Cheetos, Progresso soups and patties and Ruffles. Each SnackCat — you can get them in various colors and flavors — costs $6. You can use them at school or other kid-friendly locations.

Did you know?

The 2011 presidential election was the first since the Great Depression in which fewer than 50% of likely voters said it was very important to them that a candidate address the issue of the poor in their communities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Millennial Generation, according to Gallup, is the most financially secure age group in the history of the U.S. To help ease the financial strain placed on families by rising food costs, the Social Security Administration has boosted its monthly cost-of-living adjustment to 100%, the highest increase since the program was instituted in 1935.

The National Endowment for Financial Education says that 42% of 20- to 30-year-olds have not saved a dime for retirement.

Here are five things you should know about food insecurity and your savings.

1. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about food insecurity and poverty.

The reality is that food insecurity and poverty are real — especially when you look at the data that shows rising U.S. incomes and personal debt. With rising income and less debt, more people can afford to buy healthy food.

2. Identifying someone who needs assistance is easy, but giving it can be challenging.

As in many cases, families often don’t have the means to pay for good-quality, nutritious food. As a result, the programs that help them purchase these foods have to continue to increase to meet the needs of these families. In this case, volunteers from a third-party organization, such as a local food bank, is ideal — and can help a family.

3. Social Security is the primary source of income for 62% of Americans.

For many people, Social Security and pension income is a major source of income for the elderly and disabled. The amount of wages or income those benefits might provide is usually enough to cover basic living expenses, and when combined with savings, these benefits might help an aging person pay for a small monthly senior home-care service.

4. For now, this is happening. But what happens in the future?

Cutting spending on programs that help our communities doesn’t guarantee their success. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “Congress could choose to cut spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), food stamps, and other programs, which would in turn cause reduced spending on these programs; raise taxes, which would reduce revenues; or do nothing, which would lead to a negative net impact.”

5. Your savings account can help make ends meet.

Don’t think about income security and savings as unrelated to your monthly budget — and just because you’re not saving for retirement

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