One reason people aren’t getting enough to eat, Hamler-Fugitt said, is that their incomes don’t come close to keeping up with inflation. Since many monthly expenses are fixed, people scrimp on things that aren’t, she said.
“The one area of your budget you can cut is your food budget,” she said.
This Older Americans Month, we urge lawmakers to acknowledge the demographic shifts well underway in states like Ohio and continue to build out sound public policy improvements and investments to support older adults as they strive to age in place with dignity and security.
Every Ohioan deserves to feel well-nourished and to have their basic needs met, from their first year of life to their twilight years.
We cannot keep up at this rate, especially with pandemic-related supports for families ended or soon to end. To survive, we need more support from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to put wholesome, staple foods on our shelves.
We also need Ohio’s leaders to recognize that our hunger relief network is so much more than somewhere people turn to in emergencies. For schools, health clinics and community colleges, we make sure students and patients can get the nutritious food they need to learn and thrive. For working parents struggling to afford childcare and rent, we provide support, promote access to federal nutrition programs and fill gaps. For many older adults and people living with disabilities on fixed incomes, we are a first-line grocery store.
Food banks are keeping up by purchasing more food with privately raised dollars than we ever have, but it’s not sustainable for us to keep up at this rate. We need more support from the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to put wholesome staple foods on the shelves. We join Feeding America and our peers across the country in urging Congress to include an additional $900 million in TEFAP in the upcoming spending package. TEFAP commodities made up about a quarter of all the food distributed by our network last year, and even more in rural areas of the state and nation.
Additionally, we need our state leaders to recognize that the Ohio hunger relief network is much more than somewhere people turn to in emergencies. Ohio food banks operate workforce development programs, prepare meals for kids during out-of-school time, deliver groceries to vulnerable households, supply personal care and personal hygiene items, provide nutrition education, connect clients to health care, foster cross-sector collaboration and so much more.
The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey estimated that about a month after the credit expired, 339,000 Ohio families with children sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the past seven days.
Compare that to the period from Sept. 15-27 when the credit was in full force. Then an estimated 264,000 Ohio families with children sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat, the survey said.
If those estimates are accurate, that means food insecurity for families with children has leapt 28% since the expiration of the child tax credit.
Out of nearly 200 federal programs tracked by the Coalition on Human Needs between fiscal years 2010 and 2021, nearly two-thirds have not kept pace with inflation. Without an updated omnibus spending bill, said Joree Novotny, director of external affairs for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, there isn't enough assistance to meet the need. For example, she explained, monthly WIC benefits for fresh produce for children would decrease from $24 to $9.
"People struggling with food insecurity are really uncertain about what the future looks like," she said, "and we want public policy that provides them with more certainty, more dignity, so that they'll be able to meet the needs of themselves and their kids."