Approximately 1 in 8 Montanans struggle with hunger, and over 38,000 children live in food insecure homes.
What is food insecurity?
The inability to access food in a consistent manner, resulting in reduced quality or variety of diet. While food banks and federal nutrition programs have made severe hunger and malnutrition rare in this country, millions of low-income Americans are still faced with food insecurity.
What is hunger?
Hunger is defined as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food. Hunger occurs when households must reduce food intake or skip meals because the household lacks money and other resources for food.
The consequences of hunger are severe and long-lasting:
- Individuals experiencing food insecurity have increased rates of both physical and mental health challenges.
- Children struggling with hunger are more likely to have impaired cognitive development, lower math and reading scores, and higher rates of absenteeism.
- Food insecurity among seniors leads to a variety of health problems including an increased chance of being hospitalized, a worsening of chronic conditions, and a weakened immune system.
- Hunger also has a significant economic impact on our state due to preventable health care costs, lower educational attainment, and lost productivity in the workforce.
Hungry in Montana
Hunger is directly related to the larger problem of economic insecurity in our state. Low wages, job loss, and insufficient fixed incomes leave many families unable to keep food on the table while trying to afford the rising costs of housing, child care, and medical care.
Limited access to food also contributes to hunger and food insecurity in Montana. Thirty of Montana’s 56 counties have areas considered food deserts: low-income areas where at least 500 people and/or 33% of the residents must travel more than ten miles to the nearest supermarket (or 1 mile in urban areas). In Montana, nearly 72,000 individuals live in areas considered food deserts and have limited access to a grocery store or supermarket, making access to fresh, affordable food a daily challenge.
Finally, hunger and food insecurity are worsened in our state due to the underutilization of the public food programs such as SNAP, WIC, School Breakfast, and the Summer Food Service Program. Lack of knowledge about the programs, confusion over eligibility, limited program availability in some areas, as well as the stigma of participating in public programs are some of the reasons participation in these excellent programs is not maximized, contributing to increased food insecurity rates in Montana.
Montana Food Bank Network is a network to end hunger in Montana
Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) partners with 140 agencies across Montana provide food to those in need. In 2016, nearly 95,000 Montanans received food through the agencies of the Montana Food Bank Network. In addition to providing emergency food, MFBN works to increase participation in the public food programs and supports policies to bring sustainable long-term solutions to hunger.
We cannot do it alone
We are lucky to be in a state that understands that hunger hides in every community. It is lurking around doorsteps in every neighborhood. Hunger is not something that you can see or shows a trail of damage like a hurricane. It is silent and we are here to bring it out in the light if only to smother it. We urge you to join this fight. Find a way to get involved whether it be donating, advocating, educating, or volunteering. Find out how to join the Montana Food Bank Network’s efforts and make a difference in your community and in the lives of thousands of Montanans.