Growing hunger problem in Maricopa, 7th Congressional District

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A report released by the Food Research and Action Center this week shows the congressional district which includes the city of Maricopa is one of the hungriest in the nation.

“The 2010 data shows that Arizona households are still struggling, which was reflected in the increased demand our food banks saw last year, when they distributed a record 134 million pounds of food,” said Ginny Hildebrand, president and CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks. “Despite the increased demand, we continue to work diligently to assist each of these struggling individuals and families.”

The study looked at the number of people who reported in the past year not having enough money to buy food they needed for themselves or their family. It then ranked the findings by state, congressional district and metropolitan area.

In the 7th Congressional District, 22.5 percent of residents reported not having enough money to buy the food they needed, which ranked the area third-worst in Arizona and the 88th out of 436 districts nationwide. In the district with the greatest hunger problem, 31.8 percent of residents lacked sufficient food.

Statewide, more than one in five Arizona households reported not having enough money to buy needed food. That number moved Arizona up in the ranking, making it the 15th hungriest state. It was 17th in 2009 and 22nd in 2008.

In Maricopa, the increase in need for food assistance was even more dramatic, according to FOR Maricopa Food Bank Director Wendy Webb.

“From 2009 to 2010, the number of people we served increased from 26,000 to 38,000, a little more than 30 percent,” Webb said. “It seems like people are trying to improve their situation, but they just don’t have enough resources to currently survive on.”

Webb pointed out the 38,000 are not unique people served. “One person could have received five food boxes and that would count as five servings,” she said.

Arizona’s growing hunger comes at a time when the overall number of people dealing with food hardship declined from 18.5 percent to 18 percent nationwide.

The FRAC report analyzes survey data collected by Gallup. The ability to provide such localized up-to-date data comes from Gallup’s partnership with Healthways, which included interviewing 1,000 households per day throughout the year.

More than 352,000 people were asked in 2010 whether there were times over the preceding year that they did not have enough money to buy food they or their family needed. To read the full report, visit www.azfoodbanks.org or www.frac.org.