Report Shows Level of ‘Food Insecurity’ in County

Nearly 400,000 people in Orange County didn’t know where they would get their next meal at some point during 2009 according to the latest report by Feeding America, the nation’s largest association of food banks.

The Orange County totals represented 13.1 percent of the population, slightly below the 16 per cent national average of those who experienced “food insecurity,” according to the study underwritten by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Nielsen Company.

Those at risk for going hungry often earn too much to qualify for federal assistance programs, according to the national study. But in areas like southern California, the costs of an apartment and gasoline, among other necessary expenses, may not leave enough to always have food.

At the time of the study, unemployment in the county was running at about 10 percent due to The Great Recession. The study includes a map of state and county rates. Overall, California was at 16.7 percent. The lowest food insecurity rate was five percent in Steel County, S.D., and the highest was 38 percent in Wilcox County, Ala.

Nationally, the Feeding American food banks say they provide food for 37 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including 14 million children and about three million seniors. Irvine-based Second Harvest is part of Feeding America.

Los Angeles County had the highest number of people, about 1.7 million, who were at risk of hunger at some point in 2009. But the county’s rate of 17.4 percent was just slightly above the national average.