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Hunger, food insecurity rates rise in Miami Valley and Ohio

Rows of fruits and vegetables displayed in a grocery store, with piles of red tomatoes in the foreground and a refrigerated produce case in the back.
Alejandro Figueroa
The rates of food insecurity have increased in Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties.

Hunger has increased in Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties, and leaders of The Foodbank point to the end of pandemic aid as a likely factor.

Food insecurity increased from 11.9% of the population in those three counties in 2021 to 14.3% in 2022, according to a recently released study by Map the Meal Gap. That means more than one in seven people locally don't know where they will get their next meal.

Ohio as a whole also saw those numbers jump from 11.8% in 2021 to 14.1% in 2022.

The Foodbank saw the increase in need coming, said Amber Wright, its development and marketing coordinator.

After comparing data from the study and its own internal service numbers, The Foodbank predicted that an increase in hunger would follow the end of pandemic relief programs.

The data on food insecurity is even higher for communities of color and children, Wright said. One in five kids don't know where their next meal is coming from.

“None of the information in this is at all surprising, especially because we are so familiar with what food insecurity looks like and how it always attacks our most vulnerable populations and disproportionately impacts communities of color," she said. "And that was reiterated, yet again, with rates of food insecurity being double among Black and Hispanic persons as it is among their white counterparts."

The organization prepared for a spike in demand, Wright said, and had infrastructure in place to address hunger in the counties it serves — Montgomery, Greene and Preble counties.

“When we get funded through programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program that is being renegotiated currently in the Farm Bill, then we take care of all of those expenses on our own," she said. "And we take any dollars that are donated to us or given to us through state or federal funds, and we kind of compound it with our own fundraising efforts.”

The Foodbank also relies on its partners such as CareSource and Henny Penny to continue to provide food and assistance to those in need.

"They sponsor all of our mass distributions that are about to start coming in June. And so they've they've just been incredible partners and they have done other or they have funded other areas of our work, like they've sponsored trucks before," Wright said. "They've helped us with food purchasing costs."

Going forward, she said The Foodbank is preparing for food insecurity rates to continue to increase.

According to Wright, funding and supporting government nutrition assistance programs like SNAP food aid is vital to combating hunger in the community.

"We really need to keep that in mind moving forward when it comes to funding nutrition programs like SNAP, these supports are there for a reason," she said. "It helps the entire community."

Shay Frank was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. Before working at WYSO, Shay worked as the Arts Writer for the Blade Newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to working at the paper, she worked as a freelancer for WYSO for three years and served as the vice president of the Toledo News Guild. Now located back in the Dayton area, Shay is thrilled to be working with the team at WYSO and reporting for her hometown community.