JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Much work has been done to help feed people in need, a local food bank official says. But more still needs to be done to solve the problem of hunger.
On Wednesday, the group Feeding America released the Map the Meal Gap 2018 numbers.
Christie Jordan, CEO of the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, said a number of things are taken into consideration to arrive at the figures.
"The meal gap takes into consideration resources like your earned wages plus federal nutrition programs," Jordan said. "Then it sees how much people need additional to supply all the food they would need in their household. So, the difference between what they're earning and what they're getting through federal assistance and what they need is the meal gap."
The meal gap has decreased a little since the last report.
"We have in our area just a little over 10 million meals missing in Northeast Arkansas compared to 12 million last year," she said. "Now, while that has decreased, the bad part is the number of food-insecure people. While that has decreased, the number of people who are eligible to receive federal nutrition assistance or SNAP has decreased. So, they're making just a little too much to qualify for SNAP, but not making enough to feed their families."
Jordan said the progress made is good, just not enough to solve the problem.
"We're happy that the meal gap has decreased," Jordan said. "But unfortunately, the wages some people are earning are just a little too much for them to qualify for SNAP, but it's not enough for them to be able to feed their families adequately."
Jordan said you can see how the numbers have dropped.
"The number of food insecure people overall has gone down," Jordan said. "But there are more people left in that gap of not being able to earn wages adequately to be able to provide food for their families. And they don't qualify for the SNAP benefits they desperately need. The reason this is so important is Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill this year. And the Farm Bill is the legislation that all our federal nutrition programs fall under. So, while that does have a lot to do with our farming community and is important to our farm community, it's also very important for families who are food insecure who struggle to provide food for their families."
The number of food-insecure people has gone from 68,000 to 63,000.
Jordan said they'll be keeping an eye on the Farm Bill because it contains the SNAP program.
"This means anything having to do with authorizing the SNAP program," Jordan said. "And the work requirements or any of the requirements that are part of the SNAP program all fall under the Farm Bill. And so, as Congress and the House of Representatives are considering the Farm Bill, we really want to watch that closely so that we make sure the families that need those benefits are still eligible for those SNAP benefits."
Jordan said it's important that the community not only support local food pantries and soup kitchens but that people reach out to their local representatives and talk about how important programs like SNAP are in their area.
"When we have a strong federal nutrition safety net that helps Northeast Arkansas, it helps the people that are a part of our community and it helps our economy," she said. "Because when you look at cutting those SNAP benefits, it not only means there are going to be more people standing in line at our food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, it means there is going to be less money being spent in Northeast Arkansas. And if less money is being spent in our grocery stores in our communities, that will mean lost jobs ultimately."
To get an idea of the number of food-insecure people found in your area, click here.
For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas, click here.