If you are reading this over breakfast and have enough to eat, consider yourself fortunate.
Because in Kentucky, many residents do not always know where they will get their next meal, The Courier-Journal’s Chris Kenning reported Sunday.
Percentages vary from affluent urban areas to impoverished counties of Eastern Kentucky, but on the whole, about 15.6 percent of Kentuckians are “food insecure,” meaning they can’t always afford the food they need. That translates into more than 670,000 of Kentucky’s 4.3 million people.
And while the numbers and percentages may seem abstract, the fear of going hungry is very real for many in the state who depend on food banks, run by charitable organizations, and the government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps).
Among them is Lorraine Maggard, 75, of Mount Vernon, who regularly visits a food pantry run by the Christian Appalachian Project called Grateful Bread.
Living on about $800 a month in Social Security, Ms. Maggard notes that after her house payment, utility bills and car insurance, she has about $48 to live on each month. And the $74 she used to get in food stamps was cut to $47 a month after Congress declined to extend a temporary increase enacted in 2009 to help people through the recession.
“If I didn’t have the pantry, I don’t know what I’d do,” Ms. Maggard told The Courier-Journal.
Despite the stigma—the mistaken view food stamps are handouts for able-bodied adults unwilling to work—the majority of people who receive food stamps are in families where adults are working low-wage jobs, making so little they qualify for assistance. They earn 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level, about $25,400 a year for a family of three.
More than half of those who benefit from food stamps are children. One-fifth are elderly, such as Ms. Maggard from Rockcastle County, whose meager allotment isn’t enough to get her through the month without a trip to the local food pantry.
It remains a terrible truth that in this land of wealth and abundance that many people do not have enough to eat.
Kentucky is fortunate to have the Christian Appalachian food pantry and many other food banks that serve their communities.
But Kentucky must do more to expand possibilities for people to earn a fair wage, find decent jobs and provide for themselves and their families.
Easy political talk about “job creators” and “job killers” isn’t working.
The harder job is to keep working on conditions that cause hunger and poverty.