Food Insecurity In New Hampshire Increases
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is releasing results from a federal report that shows an increase in food insecurity in New Hampshire. Food insecurity is defined as not knowing where your next meal is coming from. The US Department of Agriculture's report reveals food insecurity in New Hampshire increased from 6.4% between 2002 - 2004 to 7.7% during 2005 – 2007.
"This study," said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas, "shows there is a strong need for food and nutrition programs to assist families who were not able to get enough to eat on their own."
According to the report, nationally, only half of those who were food insecure were participating in programs such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program and the Food Stamp Program.
"The current economic conditions have forced more and more people to turn to DHHS for help," said DHHS Director of Family Assistance (DFA) Terry Smith. "In the past year we've seen a 20% increase in the number of people applying for assistance; in our Food Stamp Program alone we've seen caseloads increase from 29,625 in October of 2007 to 33.624 in October of 2008."
The report compiled data over 3 years, from 2005-2007. Rates of food insecurity during the 3-year period ranged from 6.5% in North Dakota to 17.4% in Mississippi. The US Department of Agriculture interviewed nearly 2800 New Hampshire households about their access to adequate food, food expenditures and use of government food and nutrition programs.
"Even though New Hampshire was not one of the states with the highest food insecurity rates," said Public Health Director Dr Jose Montero, "this is still concerning. Our neighbors in Maine found that 13.3% of households surveyed were food insecure. We need to be prepared to assist New Hampshire families especially given the current economy and trends in food costs."
While these programs are options to help people, there are federal eligibility requirements that not all food insecure people meet. Other resources include local town welfare offices and local food pantries. DHHS also recommends a program called Serve New England, which is like a food buying co-op that anyone can qualify for; through it you can buy frozen meats, fresh fruits and vegetables at about half grocery store prices.