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1 in 5 Utah families can't afford enough food, survey says

Published September 18, 2013 9:04 pm

Hunger • Food stamp caseloads soared in Utah and the nation during the recession, but the House is now considering cuts.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Among Utah families raising children, about 22 percent say they don't have enough money to consistently afford the food they need.

The rate is even higher in Ogden, where 23.4 percent of the households with children said they were unable to buy enough food.

The data is from an analysis by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) of surveys done by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project between 2008 and 2012. It comes as Congress considers cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps, by $40 billion over 10 years.

Census data released this week showed the number of Americans living in poverty in 2012 remained steady at 15 percent and the number of Utahns without health insurance also stayed level, at 14.4 percent. Last month, three of the Salt Lake Community Action Program's five food pantries reduced their hours, citing a funding squeeze.

FRAC and other advocacy groups organized a nationwide SNAP Call-In Day on Tuesday, asking House members to vote against the cuts proposed by Republican leadership.

"Utah's SNAP caseload has declined over the last year; we're hopeful that means that there is less need for the program, but there are a lot of families that still are struggling and continue to need the help," Gina Cornia of Utahns Against Hunger said in a statement. "It is outrageous that Congress is even debating cuts to SNAP."

The FRAC analysis examined food hardship rates for 100 of the nation's largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, which include Salt Lake City and Ogden. Those who said they struggle to afford food included:

• 22.4 percent of households with children in Utah

• 13.7 percent of households without children in Utah.

• In the Salt Lake City area, 20.9 percent for households with children, and 14.2 percent for households without children.

• In the Ogden area, 23.4 percent for households with children, and 13.8 percent for households without children.

• 21.6 percent of households in the Mountain Plains region.

Cornia noted similar findings from the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which show 14.8 percent of Utahns struggled to afford enough food from 2010 to 2012.

"What these data tell us is that there's a new reality for too many Americans," she said. "Hunger and poverty rates spiked at the beginning of the recession and have stayed high ever since."

Voices for Utah Children notes that while the percentage of uninsured children in Utah has dropped from 11.4 percent in 2010, it remains at 8.5 percent — the same level as 2000.

Other recent Tribune stories:

SNAP Challenge: Could you eat on $4 a day?

Some area food pantries trimming days of operation

Read the report

Food Hardship 2008-2012: Geography and Household Structure was released by the Food Research and Action Center. —

Food help

Learn how to donate at the Utah Food Bank, http://www.utahfoodbank.org. It also has a list of Utah food pantries.

They include these pantries run by the Salt Lake Community Action Program:

Salt Lake City • 300 W. 300 North; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Magna • 3441 S. 8400 West; Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Midvale Recreation Center • 8446 S. 270 West; Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Redwood Recreation Center • 3060 S. Lester St., West Valley City; Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tooele County • 7 S. Park St., Grantsville; Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m.