Poverty and Food Insecurity Infographic
In 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 insecurity—the 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.