Coles County Hunger Symposium

symposium

Today I have the honor of presenting my work at the first ever Coles County Hunger Symposium.

symposium

This symposium, which will bring together community members, service providers, content experts, and other interested individuals, is geared toward the education and activation of participants to know, understand, and utilize what is learned to better our community.

I will be presenting my research on poverty and food insecurity in Coles County and the East Central Illinois region.  A copy of my presentation slides is available here: CCTO Hunger Summit Presentation

In Coles County, Poverty remains but Food Insecurity Rises

In mid-December 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest official estimates of social and economic indicators for every geographic region in the United States.  These data, for the calendar year 2013, presents a considerable undertaking and are, by necessity, always a year behind.  Nonetheless each December we receive the most reliable vital information regarding the wellbeing of communities across the nation.

For four years now, I have used these estimates in my research to measure the incidence of poverty and food insecurity in Coles County, as well as a fourteen county region serviced by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank in which Coles County is served.  Each year when I collect and analyze these data, I am initially hopefully that the estimates of the level of impoverishment and risk for hunger will abate; but this year, like the previous, this is not fully the case.

Current estimates show that 22 percent, over 1 in 5, of the current population of Coles County is officially poor, earning an annual income below the federal threshold of $11,490 for an individual; this depends on the composition of a person’s family, for example, a family of four has a poverty threshold of $23,550 annually.  This percentage has remained unchanged from the previous estimates, which is the relative bright spot in an otherwise concerning collection of data.

Also of note, 13 percent of all families, and 22.5 percent of families with children under the age of eighteen are officially poor; each of these marginally increased by roughly one percentage point from previous estimates.

However, while the incidence of poverty remained relatively flat, the more concerning trend is reflected by the percent of individuals and families at-risk of food insecurity—the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire adequate foods in socially accepted ways.  More basic, it is the increased risk of not knowing from where your next meal may come, and if so, that it is nutritionally sufficient.  The annual income for this level of risk, used widely in practice and research, is above that of official poverty, at 185 percent of a poverty income for an individual or family (1.85 times the annual income used in the federal poverty threshold).

The most recent estimates show that 42.5 percent, well over 2 in 5 individuals are at-risk, 31.1 percent of all families are insecure, and 46.5 percent of all families with children under the age of eighteen are challenged daily to have adequate meals.  Each of these increased multiple percentage points from the previous year, and of most concern are families with children.

A safety net, albeit limited, exists for these families—mainly through targeted governmental services and resources for particular family members.  For example, school-aged children from food insecure families are eligible for free or reduced priced meals at school, though not nearly all who are eligible take advantage of this assistance.  Similarly, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk, yet again there is a gap enrolling eligible families.  Finally, and most important, is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, which bolsters the food budget of individuals and families making less than 130 percent of the poverty threshold.  SNAP, the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, is the only food assistance program open to most individuals regardless of family status; SNAP can, single-handedly, address food insecurity.  But SNAP is also a popular target for program and budget cuts, the most recent threat coming is to restrict access for adults of working age without dependents.

But there is a gap between those who can access such services and the level of need for assistance.  Where WIC and the school meal program target families and their children living with food insecurity, SNAP eligibility ends at 130 percent of the federal poverty threshold.  Moreover, school meals are served to the student and the nutritional supports through WIC are provided as formula and food for the children; the adults in these families do not receive direct food assistance.

Based on my research, the gap in the percentage of families who are eligible for food stamps but are at-risk of hunger is 11.4 percent of all families and 15.3 percent of all families with children; just over 1 in 6 families are at-risk of missing meals, but unable to access government programs for support.

This gap, as much of my work is targeted, is filled by not-for-profit and private charities who coordinate food pantries, meals, or other needed services like health and educational supports.  In Coles County, we are fortunate to have a number of these agencies available, but given the rise in need and risk, they are feeling stretched to serve the poor and near poor.

The month of charitable giving between Thanksgiving and Christmas gleans much in terms of food assistance and opportunities for relief, but poverty, hunger, insecurity, and their outcomes are year-round concerns.  This is not just true for our youngest children and their families, but also for working individuals and family breadwinners, students enrolled at Lake Land and Eastern, an increasing number who are attempting to raise a family while taking courses.  There are also those with careers in service sector and municipal jobs, and those who have long passed their working years and find the struggles of limited budgets during retirement.

These issues are not specific to one group or one social condition, but shared across the county and East Central Illinois region.  I hope that readers will continue to be moved to help.  Monetary donations to organizations often translate to more robust benefits because, for example, local pantries can buy food at a discount from the regional food bank for pennies on the dollar.  But no matter at what level or how donations are given—canned, non-perishable food, volunteer time, community dialogs, or emotional support—I know through experience that those who live day-to-day at the margins of our community will be grateful.  I also know that we are only as strong as least among us, and I hope that next year’s data can prove the tremendous strength that is possible for all of Coles County and East Central Illinois.

2013 Food Assistance Gap Maps Available

Three maps which depict the distribution of families who live in the  “food assistance gap” — between 130% and 185% of poverty — were added recently.

They can be found in the “Eastern Illinois Foodbank” menu, on the “Food Assistance Gap” page.

They can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Poverty and Food Insecurity Infographic

CCPDP Poverty and Food Insecurity 2014 (2015 Update) CombinedIn mid-December 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest official estimates of social and economic indicators for every geographic region for the calendar year 2013. Such an undertaking is by necessity always a year behind, but nonetheless provides vital information regarding the wellbeing of communities across the nation.

For four years now, I have used these estimates in my research to measure the incidence of poverty and food insecurity in Coles County, as well as a fourteen county region serviced by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank in which Coles County is served. Each year when I collect and analyze these data, I am initially hopefully that the estimates of the level of impoverishment and risk for hunger will abate from the previous year; but this year, like the previous, this is not fully the case.

Current estimates show that 22 percent, over 1 in 5, of the current population of Coles County is officially poor, earning an annual income below the federal threshold of $11,490 for an individual; this depends on the composition of a person’s family so, for example, a family of four has a poverty threshold of $23,550 annually. This percentage has remained unchanged from the previous estimates, which is a relative bright spot in an otherwise concerning collection of data.

13 percent of all families, and 22.5 percent of families with children under the age of eighteen are officially poor, and each of these marginally increased by roughly one percentage point from previous estimates.

However, while the incidence of poverty remained relatively flat, the more concerning trend is in the percent of individuals and families at-risk of food insecuritythe limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially accepted ways. More basic, it is the increased risk of not knowing from where your next meal may come, and if so, that it is nutritionally adequate. The annual income for this level of risk, used widely in practice and research, is above that of official poverty, at 185 percent of a poverty income for an individual or family (1.85 times the annual income used in the federal poverty threshold).

The most recent estimates show that 42.5 percent, well over 2 in 5 individuals are at-risk, 31.1 percent of all families are insecure, and 46.5 percent of all families with children under the age of eighteen are challenged daily to have adequate meals. Each of these increased multiple percentage points from the previous year, and of most concern are families with children.

Professor talks poverty during Hunger Awareness Month

CHARLESTON — One in five Coles County citizens lives in poverty.

That 2012 statistic, 22.9 percent, is striking when compared to 2003, when 13.2 percent, a little more than one in 10 Coles County citizens, were impoverished. And compare that 2012 statistic to percentages across the state (14.7 percent) and the nation (15.9 percent).

The problems don’t end for individuals or families just because they’re a little higher than the absolute poverty line, Eastern Illinois University professor Michael Gillespie said. During November, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month, Gillespie has given a series of lectures focused on poverty; he gave his last one, concerning how to help alleviate poverty in the county, Tuesday afternoon.

Read the entire article here: Professor talks poverty during Hunger Awareness Month

Public Lecture: Addressing Poverty & Food Insecurity in East-Central Illinois

On Tuesday November 18, 2014, I presented data from my research as a public lecture for the Academy of Lifelong Learning at EIU, and as part of the 2014 EIU Hunger Challenge for the EIU Hunger Action Team.     You can download the presentation slides here: Academy of Lifelong Learning Nov 18

“Hand To Mouth” and the rationality of the poor

Originally posted on mathbabe:

Here’s one thing that you do as a mathematician a lot: change the assumptions and see how wildly the conclusions change. You usually start with lots of assumptions, and then see how things change when they are taken away one by one: what if the ring isn’t commutative? What if it doesn’t have a “1”?

Of course, it’s easy enough to believe that we can no longer prove the same theorems when we don’t start with the same kinds of mathematical set-ups. But this kind of thing can also apply to non-mathematical scenarios as well.

So, for example, I’ve long thought that the “marshmallow” experiment is nearly universally misunderstood: kids wait for the marshmallow for exactly as long as it makes sense to them to wait. If they’ve been brought up in an environment where delayed gratification pays off, and where the rules don’t change in the meantime, and where they…

View original 252 more words

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