By The Numbers: Food Insecurity In Jefferson County
Stan Siegwald opens a plastic flap covering a temperature-controlled metal box filled with taco shells, shredded cheese and milk cartons. There are rows of these boxes, stacked full with meals and stamped with the addresses of various community centers.
“This is going to Jeffersonville Boys and Girls Club, and that sticker tells them what they’re getting, how many meals,” Siegwald says, as he sidesteps a cart covered in juice boxes.
Siegwald is the director of strategic initiatives for Dare to Care, and today he’s checking in on the organization’s community kitchen on Story Avenue. It serves as a commissary for the group’s Kid’s Cafes.
This is just one of the ways they are addressing food insecurity in the state; something that — according to the numbers — is needed just as much as ever.
Earlier this week, Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization of which Dare to Care is a state affiliate, released their “Map the Meal Gap” data. It’s a collection of statistics that identifies, on a county-by-county level, where and how socioeconomic status and food insecurity meet.
According to Siegwald, there are a few takeaways from the data.
The first is that Jefferson County has one of the higher percentages of food insecurity in the state, right at about 16 percent. The nationwide average is roughly 13 percent.
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Over the past few years, that number has dropped some, but not nearly enough. Siegwald says part of this can be attributed to the lingering affects of the economic collapse in 2008, after which the number of food-insecure people nearly doubled.
“Our belief is that as folks have returned to employment, they are not returning to employment at the same levels,” Siegwald says. “They are working, but they are struggling to make ends meet with the household income they now have.”
And that's creating some gaps in how hunger is addressed. About half the people who are food insecure in Jefferson County are at poverty level or below, but the other half are above 130 percent of poverty.
“Now what does that mean,” Siegwald says. “That means that they, more likely than not, are not qualifying for the wide array of the public nutrition programs available.”
This includes programs like SNAP, WIC or free or reduced-cost school meals — and without those, they may struggle to have enough food to make up a healthy diet. But filling those gaps requires a more finessed approach than many organizations are used to.
So, in addition to their other programs, Siegwald says, Dare to Care began partnering with the Greater Louisville Project about two months ago to collect data on hunger at neighborhood-level — rather than a county-level — which will enable them to better allocate resources.