In its 10th year, the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) for the first time can show poverty data at the county level over two five-year, non-overlapping time spans. And this comparison of the periods of 2005 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014 reveal that need for help with food in Ohio is trending up, not down, since the end of the Great Recession.
The 2014 five-year American Community Survey estimates released this week show an increase in the number of individuals living in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level in every Metropolitan Statistical Area and 80 of 88 counties in the state, when compared to 2009 5-year estimates. This income threshold is considered the standard at which households can reach self-sufficiency—about $40,000 for a family of three.
“Ohio families are not gaining ground since the end of the Great Recession,” said Lisa-Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks. “In fact, now an estimated 3,859,814 Ohioans are eligible for help from our hunger relief network because their household incomes are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s more than a third of our state. Unfortunately, while we find this data disheartening, it is not surprising. Our network continues to break records for food distributed and people served – records we’d like to stop breaking.”
At the county level, 25 counties have four in 10 or more of their residents living in households eligible for help from food banks, and two counties (Adams and Athens) have more than half of their residents eligible for help from food banks.
Area counties with at least 4 in 10 people eligible for help from food banks (below 200 percent of the federal poverty level), ranked by 2014 five-year estimates, include:
1. Adams: 14,165 people, 50.77 percent of total population.
4. Pike: 13,461 people, 48.18 percent of total population.
7. Highland: 19,628 people, 45.72 percent of total population.
15. Fayette: 12,022 people, 42.66 percent of total population.
19. Ross: 29,494 people, 41.39 percent of total population.
“Something has to give,” Hamler-Fugitt said. “There are over 3.8 million people who aren’t earning enough to be self-sufficient in our state. Our emergency food network is responding as best we can, but these are families living paycheck to paycheck. This is a chronic problem, and it is prevalent in every part of Ohio.”
Since the end of the Great Recession, 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties have experienced an increase in the percentage of their residents living in households with incomes under 200 percent of the poverty level.
Highland County also saw the second-highest increase in the percentage of people eligible for help from food banks (below 200 percent of the federal poverty level) from 2005-2009 to 2010-2014. In the 2009 survey, Highland County’s estimate was at 37.72 percent, with a 45.94 percent estimate in 2014. This increase is 8.23 percent, second only to Williams County.
Other area counties that saw at least a 20-percent increase in the percentage of people eligible for help from food banks were:
3. Brown: 31.81 percent in 2009 to 39.64 percent in 2014 (7.83 percent increase).
9. Fayette: 36.35 percent in 2009 to 42.66 percent in 2014 (6.30 percent increase).
10. Clinton: 30.71 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2014 (6.29 percent increase).
“Barely getting by is becoming the norm for too many Ohio families,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “In our most recent Hunger in America study, we found that six in 10 people visiting our member food pantries say they rely on our network regularly for help. Our social and economic policies must address this serious and costly issue, and we call on our federal and state legislators to respond with solutions that give everyone the chance for a livable wage that allows them to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table.”
For more information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau FactFinder to view new American Community Survey data or visit the Ohio Association of Food Banks at www.ohiofoodbanks.org.
About the Ohio Association of Food Banks
The Ohio Association of Food Banks is Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, representing Ohio’s 12 Feeding America food banks and 3,300 member charities including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters. In SFY 2015, the association and its member food banks were able to acquire and distribute over 197 million pounds of food and grocery items. The association also serves as the home of The Ohio Benefit Bank and operates the state’s largest navigator program for the Affordable Care Act. Follow the association on Twitter, stay connected on Facebook and visit them on the web at www.ohiofoodbanks.org.