6.5 Million US Latinos Hungry
Food insecurity, Migrant children automatically eligible for school lunch program, why Latinos disproportionally affected.
Nearly 1 in 5 Latino households is suffering from food insecurity nationwide in one of the worlds richest countries. According to the latest US Department of Agriculture 2006 report on food security, Hispanics are disproportionately affected with 19.5 % of Latino households reporting food insecurity, well above the national average of 10.9% (Non Hispanic white average is 7.8%). The Tri State area is seeing an increase of households struggling to adequately feed their families. The averages nationwide for 2004-2006 were 11.3 %; Delaware went from 6.7% to 7.8%, Pennsylvania from 9.5% to 10% of households suffering from food insecurity. New Jersey was unique in lowering the rate to 7.7% from 8.6%. But again the prevalence of Hispanics suffering is increasing. In 2006 over 6.5 million of the 35.5 million people who lived in food insecure households were Hispanic. (6922500)
What is meant by food insecurity? As defined by the same report, food security falls into two categories "low food security" is basically defined as a household at times uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food for all household members because they had insufficient money and other resources for food. Whereas "very low food security" is defined as multiple times the food intake was reduced and eating patterns disrupted due to inadequate resources for food.
Are you 'Food Insecure?'
It is interesting that some of the questions and statements' used to determine the level of food insecurity are as follows; 'Were you worried that your food would run out before you got money to buy more?'. "We couldn't afford to eat balanced meals". "We relied on only a few kinds of low cost food to feed our children because we were running out of money to buy food". "In the last 12 months did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn't enough money for food?" These are just some of the determining factors that define whether a household falls into the category of food insecure. As noted by the report these figures do not include homeless families or individuals, so the numbers could be even higher. Food security is about access on a regular basis to sufficiently nutritional food to sustain the health of your family.
Only 51% of Latinos are accessing the available food stamp program, according to National Council of La Raza in Dec 2006. In a report entitled "Sin Provecho: Latinos and Food Insecurity" it outline numerous aspects of this issue. One of the findings of the report based on previous studies noted that in many Hispanic communities there were 38% less fresh fruit and vegetable retailers than in areas with smaller Hispanic populations. Many of the retailers that are in the area do not have the full range of affordable food products that enable Latino families to have complete and nutritious diets.
Eligible Latinos are missing out on the food assistance programs. The same report continued that more than 3 million eligible Latinos are missing out. Part of the reason is the huge confusion surrounding the eligibility rules as the law has been changed a number of times.
Latino children are eligible for the National School breakfast and lunch program (NSLP) irrespective of immigration status
The law as it stands at the moment according to the research for this article " migrant children, identified as eligible by a local school or district… are automatically eligible for free school meals without the need for the migrant family to fill out an application" (Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Public Law 108-265). There is NO restriction for participation in these programs for children based on immigration status according to The Migrant Legal Action Program based in Washington DC, and the US Department of Agriculture. The best approach would be to speak directly to your child's school to let them know you want your child to participate in the program. More information can be found at the US department of Agriculture web site www.fns.usda.gov (available in Spanish), or the Migrant Legal Action Program at www.mlap.org
The food stamp program (FSP) provides benefits through electronic benefit transfers or paper coupons, to eligible low-income households. These coupons can then be used to purchase food from participating retailers. According to the US Department of Agriculture the 'Farm Bill' restored food stamp benefits for qualified immigrants who have lived in the US as qualified immigrants for at least 5 years. Qualified immigrants are lawful permanent residents (holders of green cards).Certain non-citizens such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those admitted for permanent residence are also eligible for the program. Eligible household members can get food stamps even if there are other members of the household that are not eligible.
The potential to improve health and nutrition through government food and nutrition programs is significant especially for our children in school. As discussed in the report by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) those who participate in the food assistance programs show greater nutritional intake, medical savings, and enhanced heath status, and even a reduction in the rate of obesity due to greater access to more nutritional food.
The same NCLR report opened with a statement on the measure to which the US government holds itself on food security;" Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food…" Exercise your rights.