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Meal Gap Study Shows How Hunger Hits San Diego County

The graphic details the number of people in San Diego County who are food insecure. According to Map the Meal, 435,560 people are food insecure in the region. The average cost of a meal is $3.17.
Map the Meal
The graphic details the number of people in San Diego County who are food insecure. According to Map the Meal, 435,560 people are food insecure in the region. The average cost of a meal is $3.17.
Meal Gap Study Shows How Hunger Hits San Diego County
Meal Gap Study Shows How Hunger Hits San Diego County
Meal Gap Study Shows How Hunger Hits San Diego County GUESTS: Karen Haren, interim executive director, Feeding America San Diego Jenny Seneor, director of programs, Feeding America San Diego

I'm Tom fudge in for Maureen Cavanaugh and you are listening to Midday Edition on KPBS. There are people in San Diego County who don't know where their next meal comes from. A new study shows there are about 435,000 people in the County who suffer from food insecurity. The numbers are smaller in Imperial County but the percentage of the population is greater. The study about the reality of hunger in our region was done by Feeding America and today we begin midday that getting more details from two people from Feeding America. Karen Karen is interim director for feeding San Diego. Thanks for coming in. Jenny is the director of programs for Feeding America San Diego. Jenny, thanks to you. Karen, your rethought -- your report found that nearly 436,000 people in San Diego County experience food insecurity. What is food insecurity? Food insecurity means that someone, an individual or a family, may not have enough food. They might have food today or for a meal today but may not know where food comes from tomorrow or over the weekend or there may not be enough food to feed everyone in the family. Someone in the family is skipping meals. What I said, they don't know where the next meal is coming from. Is that a good way to put it? It is a good way to put it. There are literally don't know where their next meal is coming in from. We don't call it hunger? We don't. Food insecurity is a little better definition of hunger. It could mean the same thing, but what we found was that food insecurity described it better. We are hungry every four hours or so. But, people who are hungry and don't know where their next meal is coming from is the definition of food insecurity. Looking at the situation in San Diego County, it looks like we are doing better than last year. Fewer people are food insecure, though not a lot. Is that difference meaningful? It is meaningful. Every what -- every time someone is not food insecure that is meaningful. We see one in seven people face hunger in San Diego County. That is a lot of people and especially, when we think about children, one in four children faces that food insecurity we were talking about. Is that more than we expect given their population, the kids? That is a lot of kids. You think about the impact of hunger on kids. They don't do as well in school if they are hungry. They have a difficult time. Health issues are more common among children who are hungry and it is a loss for our community to not have the potential of those children. Where do these families live? Throughout San Diego County, everywhere. Jenny, would you like to comment on that? Absolutely. Food insecurity is an issue in urban areas and rural areas. Feeding America is working hard to address that need across the entire County. It's also a complex issue. There's a lot of different kinds of people facing hunger here. Fingers, children, families and even military households, as well. The KPBS signal goes to Imperial County, so we can't forget about them. Looking at Imperial County, 17% of the population is food insecure compared to, I think, 14% of the population in San Diego County? Yes. That's correct. What are the sum -- what are some of the particular challenges in Imperial County? That's a great question. Imperial County, the situation is much dire out there. 35% versus 22% in San Diego County, a much more rural area with many more food deserts and limited access to food. It's more important to think about the health of Imperial County residents. Jenny, you are the head of programs for Feeding America San Diego. What kind of programs do you have which might address this problem? Absolutely. We have a lot of programs trying to meet the need in San Diego County and the meal gap. For rural hunger we have a mobile pantry program that goes to rural areas every single day in San Diego County. These are food deserts where there maybe limited access to transportation or grocery stores. We need to make sure to bring the food to these communities. In terms of child hunger we talk about, is 22.3% of children in San Diego County, we have quite a few child focused programming. We work with schools in eight different school districts to bring food directly to that elementary school so child and families are able to access if they are. There is an map that Feeding America puts out which shows every county in the United States and what they're hunger situation is. You can find that at KPBS.org if you want to take a look at it. A reminder that we're talking about food insecurity in the San Diego region. My guests are Karen, executive director of Feeding America San Diego and Jenny, director of programs for Feeding America. You know, we've used the expression food deserts two or three times. Who would like to talk about that? What is a food desert and how does that contribute to the problem that we are talking about? Karen, what you like to talk about the? A food means there is a lack of access to nutrition. So, there could be a lack of grocery stores, the lack of farmers markets, there just aren't places where people can access food in those areas of the community. They can't access decent food or food all together? There maybe food available in limited quantities, but at a fast gas station, fast stop kind of place. High prices and limited availability. Are concerned, Feeding America San Diego, is not just food, but nutritious food. We put a real focus on distributing produce throughout the community because we know that it's healthy and helps nourish people. Occasionally, I visit the farmers market, the market closest to where I live. I think they are offering coupons for folks to shop there, which is great. You get fresh produce. Karen, are there opportunities that in other parts of the county? Cal fresh can be used at farmers markets and Cal fresh is a great way to get quality food available for low income families. Jenny, Cal fresh is called snap in other places, right? It's hard to get these expressions right when you look at the bureaucracy that helps hungry people. It's known as SNAP nationally and in California, California families get program access for healthy food in grocery stores. Feeding America San Diego does Cal Fresh outreach with other organizations to make sure people have access to this valuable resource. Recently on KPBS we aired a story on the Imperial Valley challenge. This is an area with lots of food insecure people. The idea behind the challenge was to motivate the community to lose weight. Apparently, nearly 80% of the adults in Imperial County are obese or overweight. One question that confuses the mines of many including me, is the seeming connection between food insecurity and obesity. The very same people who might have food insecurity are likely to get fat? Jenny, can you talk about that? It's an important connection. When people are food insecure, it's a misconception of what that means and Karen and I have been talking about access to healthy food. Someone might have access to cheaper calorie dense foods not good to them at there is not enough healthy food in the community to access. This high rates of chronic illness in low income communities. Obesity and type 2 diabetes. Our study, we found 32% of the households we serve reported there was someone in the household with type 2 diabetes. There is that correlation at once again and is about getting healthy food into the community and making sure families have access to that. Karen, what would you like to add? I would add that we know Feeding America San Diego works on a special project with diabetics who are low income and when they have the food they need, they can help deal with their disease. The food makes a huge difference in terms of having the right kinds of food. It makes a huge difference in terms of obesity and diabetes. My guests have been Karen and Jenny. Karen is interim executive director of Feeding America San Diego and thank you very much for coming. Jenny is director of programs for Feeding America San Diego. Thank you, Jenny. We've been talking about food insecurity in San Diego County for more information, please go to our website, KPBS.org. I'm Tom Fudge and you are listening to Midday Edition on KPBS.

A new study shows 14 percent of adults in San Diego County don’t know where their next meal will come from.

The study, Map the Meal Gap 2015 by Feeding America, found 435,560 people in the county experience food insecurity and 22 percent of kids struggle with hunger.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

Karen Haren, interim executive director of Feeding America San Diego, said “food insecurity” better describes those who are hungry but are also uncertain as to where they’ll get their next meal.

“It is meaningful,” Haren told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday. “Every time someone is not food secure — that’s meaningful.”

While the county's food insecurity rate is down 1 percent from 2014, advocates say the meal gap remains wide. That, in turn, affects the outcome of production including among kids.

“You think about the impact of hunger on kids — they don’t do well in school, health issues are a lot more common,” Haren said. “It’s just a loss for our community.”

But food insecurity isn’t limited to a certain population. Jenny Seneor, director of programs for Feeding America San Diego, said it’s a complex issue.

“Food insecurity is an issue all across San Diego,” Seneor said. “There’s a lot of different types of people who are food insecure.”

The hunger problem in Imperial Valley County was also highlighted in the study with 17 percent of the 179,091 of people living there reporting food insecurity. More than 35 percent of children in Imperial Valley struggle with hunger, the study said.

California's food insecurity rate is 15 percent, according to Feeding America’s report.

Map the Meal Gap 2015 is an annual study that estimates the rate of food insecurity at the county and congressional district levels across the nation.