A new report says 38 Indiana counties have food insecurity rates among children at or above 20 percent. (USDA)
A new report says 38 Indiana counties have food insecurity rates among children at or above 20 percent. (USDA)

More than 300,000 children in Indiana don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Feeding America’s 2017 Map the Meal Gap report is out, and it looks at the hunger rate in every county across the country.

The report analyzes factors such as food price variations, food budget shortfalls, poverty and unemployment.

It says overall, 1 in 7 Indiana residents is food insecure.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, says the hunger rate for children is even higher – at 20 percent or more – in 38 counties in the state.

“You’ve got counties that are as high as almost 24 percent in Fayette, and nearly that high in Switzerland and Wayne as well,” she states. “And so, you’re talking about really closer to 1 in 4 children who are at risk of hunger. So they don’t know where that next meal is coming from.”

Weikert Bryant says about 7 in 10 Hoosier children are eligible for some sort of nutrition assistance program, but that leaves about 30 percent whose families make too much to qualify. In some cases, she says, the only places they have to turn for help are charitable organizations that distribute free food.

The report also finds shortfalls are growing in many families’ food budgets. Weikert Bryant says that means there isn’t enough to stretch from paycheck to paycheck.

“The numbers are remaining fairly steady, but the folks that are food insecure are having a much harder time,” she states. “That hole they have to dig out of is deeper than it used to be.”

Weikert Bryant adds a greater effort is needed to make sure that people who are eligible for food assistance apply for and receive it, and she says this is no time for the federal government to cut or restrict eligibility for food programs.

Marion County has the highest overall food insecurity rate in Indiana. Hamilton County has the lowest, but Weikert Bryant says there still are 26,000 people in that county at risk of hunger.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service – IN