BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Hunger can affect people from all demographics. There are nearly 450,000 people who struggle with hunger in Orange County and one in five children are at risk of hunger each month. Many of those affected are the working poor who struggle to make ends meet in a county that has a very high cost of living which impacts all facets of their lives.
21% of children in Orange County are food insecure. The government’s Free and Reduced Lunch Plan (FRLP) is the best available indicator of the number of children living in poverty in a community. According to the 18th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County, 228,121 students rely on FRLP as a steady and reliable source of nutrition. This figure reflects 45% of Orange County public school enrollment – the highest levels ever and a 19% increase between 2001/02 and 2010/11.
Often overlooked and most shocking are the disproportionate effect obesity has on an impoverished community. According to UCLA’s Center for Health and Policy Research, teens from low-income families are 3 times more likely to be obese than teen from affluent families. The 18th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County finds that 21% of Orange County children are obese which puts them at very high risk for diabetes and other chronic diet-related disease and a subsequently shortened life span.
The OC Health Care Agency released a study on seniors, and according to results from the CA Health Interview Survey in 2009, 15.2% of seniors experience food insecurity. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to hunger and its consequences. While financial challenges arise from trying to keep up with expenses for basic needs on fixed incomes, seniors face the added challenge of limited mobility that prevents them from obtaining much-needed nutrition. The resulting food insecurity can interfere with the management of chronic health problems and a poor diet can compound many health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension which could otherwise be controlled through healthy eating.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program and a crucial safety net for low-income families. SNAP provides low-income families with benefits to augment their food budget, increasing the family’s access to a nutritious and affordable diet. California has the lowest SNAP participation rates in the country and Orange County ranks in the bottom 5 in the state with only 28% of the eligible population participating in the program. These low participation rates result in a myriad of health and social problems for those who regularly go hungry. In addition to the costs associated with ill health from lack of proper nutrition, the low participation rates represent an $8.7 billion dollar loss of economic activity to the California.
In a county, with as much wealth as Orange County and in a country as prosperous as our there is no reason for a single person to not have access to a healthy and nutritious meal. Bracken’s Kitchen is committed to helping ensure that every resident has access to a hot and healthy meal.