Photo: Sandra Frank, All Faiths Food Bank CEO

Accurate Census Count Crucial to Ending Hunger

Posted on May 13, 2020 by Sandra Frank, All Faiths Food Bank CEO
There’s a lot at stake with the 2020 Census — especially for people served by All Faiths Food Bank. As members of the largest hunger-relief organization in our community and the only food bank, we know that a fair and accurate count of the U.S. population is crucial to ending hunger.

Census data is used to measure how many people in our region need food and to determine how much federal funding will flow into critical nutrition programs. Even a minor undercount can result in the loss of tens of millions of dollars and significantly fewer dollars available to help feed people in our area struggling with hunger.

That’s money our community needs for vital nutrition efforts, especially those that serve infants, children, and families. Without an accurate census, successful evidence-based programs that provide nutritious school lunches and breakfasts, WIC benefits (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) could lose significant resources.

School meal programs

National school lunch and breakfast programs use census numbers for planning. Nearly one-half of Sarasota County school children qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches. School lunch may be the one nutritious, reliable meal that many students get during the day. Loss of federal funding for school meals could affect as many as 21,000 students in Sarasota County. An inaccurate count would leave hungry kids even hungrier.

WIC

One of the nation’s most cost-effective nutrition programs, WIC leads to healthier infants, more nutritious diets, and better health care for children. The WIC program ensures that pregnant women, babies, young children under five, and new parents eat well and stay healthy.

Benefits include access to foods that are high in nutrients, counseling on healthy eating, and breastfeeding support. Infants up to one year also receive formula and baby food. Part of the nation’s nutrition safety net for over 40 years, WIC continues to enjoy extraordinary bipartisan support. An accurate census increases the likelihood that WIC will receive sufficient funding to continue serving infants and young children who rely on the program.

SNAP

SNAP — which has been called “the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net” — serves a substantial number of infants, toddlers, and young children in our region, and helps feed more than one in four children across the United States. SNAP improves children’s health outcomes related to birth weight and other health markers. In the long term, asset-limited children who receive SNAP benefits are healthier and more likely to be productive members of the workforce when they grow up.

With an accurate census count, asset-limited households can be lifted out of poverty, food insecurity can be significantly decreased, and lifelong positive impacts on health and future economic opportunity can be enjoyed.

Census numbers assist businesses and governments in deciding where to locate important community assets such as grocery stores, schools, and retail outlets that can create jobs and provide services. Census numbers also help determine how many lawmakers will serve a community — officials who will ultimately decide the funding for critical food programs.

The reality is that an accurate census and a high degree of public participation are critical to ensuring that we receive our rightful share of millions of dollars in federal funds, grants, and other crucial support.

If our future is to include healthy, well-fed children and hunger-free communities, we must spread the word about the importance of completing the census and make sure no one is left uncounted.

Census 2020 special coverage comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Herald-Tribune Media Group to inform, inspire, and engage the community.


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