January is "Basic Needs" Month. Of course, it’s easy to understand what “basic needs” are: they are the fundamental requirements we need to live and lead healthy, fulfilled lives…clean water, shelter, clothing, food, medical care, transportation. Many of us reading this paragraph may take most of these things for granted. If we're hungry, we head to our refrigerators. We can always get good, fresh water. And if we’re cold, we turn up the heat in our homes or grab one of several warm jackets we most likely own. The point, of course: the things many of us take for granted are not automatic for millions of others.
BREAKING NEWS: On January 4th, CNN published an article titled “A quarter of U.S. service members have been food insecure, new report finds.”
According to a RAND Corporation report, “25.8% of Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel were food insecure”. MORE THAN HALF of that percentage – 15.4% – are active-duty troops.
Service members aren’t living in poverty compared to the general population. But, as the report stated, “it’s also a dirty little secret: that there are service members with families and children making the salary of an E-4 who need help getting food on the table.”
Other Facts (from a Brandeis University Study*):
Would you be shocked to learn that 35%, more than a third of U.S. families that work full time, do not earn enough money to cover their most basic needs?
The economic situation is even more dire for working Black and Hispanic families, more than 50% of whom cannot afford the basics.
Low-income families with children are doing “especially poorly”, according to the study, with more than two-thirds of full-time workers failing to earn enough “to make ends meet.”
Feeding America reports that, over the last 12 months**: o 39% of families brushed their teeth without toothpaste o 40% skipped or delayed paying rent o 44% delayed changing a diaper o 49% cut back on medical expenses o 64% skipped or delayed paying utility bills o 74% skipped washing dishes or doing laundry
In the United States, according to Feeding America, more than 38 million people, including 9 million children, are food insecure. The pandemic increased food insecurity among families with children and communities of color, who already faced hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic. Finally, 1 in 15 (5.2 million) seniors, aged 60+, faced hunger in 2020.
EVERY community in this country is home to families who face hunger
Follow this link, MAP, to see a map of the United States, broken down by state and county, where you can find the food insecurity rate.
Illinois, with 102 counties, has a food insecurity rate of 8.3%, which is 1,052,040 individuals and families
Texas, with 254 counties, has a food insecurity rate of 13.0%, or 3,720,710 individuals and families
The Foundation has chosen January as Basic Needs Month so that we can help those who most need help—those in poverty, including the millions who don’t know what a full belly feels like, who have to make tough choices about what bills to pay or don’t have a key to their own home or who struggle to stay healthy.
* Brandeis University Study, utilizing date from 2015-1029 Current Population Study
** In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, Feeding America, in partnership with the U of I/Urbana-Champaign