Lexington Food Justice Podcast #11

Hunger Action Month

September is "Hunger Action Month”So Lexington Food Justice Radio will highlight an aspect of hunger throughout the month. Particularly examining poverty as the underlying cause of hunger issues.

But first -- our hearts and thoughts go out to all of the folks in Houston. And for anyone in our community who have connections with the area. Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey are tragic. And the devastation is far-reaching.

However, we need to also recognize and bring awareness to the tragedy of poverty and hunger in our own community.

While the economy may be improving since “Great Recession". Those hit hardest (i.e., underemployment, stagnant wages, rising costs of living) are still struggling to get by. With many Americans just one job loss or medical crisis away from food insecurity. And our children and seniors at greater risk of hunger.

Tanya Torp is the Executive Director of Step-by-Step, Lexington. A non-profit that offers mentoring and support services to young mothers. Tanya and her husband Christian are also tireless Community Activists whose lives are totally immersed in advocacy of justice!

Melissa Kane Tibbs is Director of Planning, Communications, and Advancement for Community Action Council. A non-profit dedicated to helping people with low-income find pathways out of poverty.

Please have a listen. As Melissa and Tanya help us understand poverty & hunger through the lens of those struggling. Many work multiple jobs and/or go to school. While caring for their families. Yet still can't make ends meet. This is especially tragic when unable to provide food for their families.

Listen to our Podcast!

Here's a Recap

Important Poverty & Hunger Statistics:

  • Most of the data either comes from the US Census Bureau: Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates 2015 or from a Feeding America report, dated 2014.
  • Federal Poverty Guidelines (Family of 4): $26,400.
  • Total population (Fayette County): 308,306.
  • Total population (Fayette County) living below Federal Poverty Guidelines: 55,900 (18.93%).
  • Capacity of Kroger Field (University of Kentucky): 61,000.
  • Children under 17 years of age living in poverty (Fayette County): 14,868 (23.32%).
  • Food insecure rate (Fayette County): 50,600 (16.62%).
  • Food insecure rate for children (Fayette County): 11,750 (18.49%).
  • From Feeding America:
    • 1 in 5 children under age 18 in Fayette County experienced food insecurity at some point during the reporting period.
    • Nearly 50% (20,192) of students attending Fayette County Public School System (FCPS) are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch.
  • Population (Fayette County) living in neighborhoods designated by the USDA as food deserts: 127,799 (41.5%).
  • Nearly 1 in 3 Fayette County households spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Discussions about poverty often center around income. However, poverty is a lack of resources! People living below, at, or near poverty levels -- piece together a very fragile patchwork of resources just to get by. If at all. When one of resource falls away. Their lives and that of their families can spiral into crisis.

Poverty & hunger are intertwined. Lack of employment, education, safe housing, family and neighborhood connections even favorable demographics are resources that can also make it difficult to access nutritious food that people need to thrive.

USDA Definition of a Food Desert

A food desert is a low-income census tract where either a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. “Low income” tracts are defined as those where at least 20 percent of the people have income at or below the federal poverty levels for family size, or where median family income for the tract is at or below 80 percent of the surrounding area’s median family income. Tracts qualify as “low access” tracts if at least 500 persons or 33 percent of their population live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles). This definition was developed by a working group comprised of members from the departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services, and USDA, which is partnering to expand the availability of nutritious food.
— USDA Food Desert Locator Webpage

So as Melissa discussed -- in urban areas, food desert neighborhoods are a mile from a supermarket or large grocery. And as Tanya discussed, here in Lexington, the East End neighborhood where she lives is located 3 miles from a large grocery.

Please note the challenges for basic food access that Tanya described during our show. Especially that even if small markets stock basic needs type foods. Like baby formula or milk. These stores typically charge more for necessary items. Which depletes SNAP and WIC benefits much quicker!

Food desserts are an important food justice topic -- one that we will continue to dig deeper to understand. Particularly considering the tragic effects of redlining. A discriminatory practice where banks, insurance companies, etc. refuse to or limit  loans,  mortgages,  insurance,  etc. within specific geographic areas, especially inner-city neighborhoods based on the  racial  or  ethnic  composition of those areas.

Want to learn more about redlining? Which -- make no mistake about it -- still exists:

And within the context of food justice. Redlining impairs the ability for many of our citizens to have reasonable access to fresh, healthy foods. As noted above 127, 799 or 41.45% of the folks in Fayette County lack this access.

Do the right thing

More than anything else. I hope you are inspired to support the important work of Community Action Council, Step By Step, and even Glean KY provide to our community. And if so, your help (i.e., your Time, Talent, or Treasures) is always welcome!

Community Action Council (CAC):

  • Each year works with more than 30,000 people who are seeking economic security and a chance to achieve self-sufficiency!
  • With a Mission to prevent, reduce, and eliminate poverty through direct services and grass roots advocacy. CAC is dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other. Changing people’s lives. Offering hope and support. Making our community a better place for everyone.
  • Offers a comprehensive set of services and advocacy to meet the needs of vulnerable and marginalized citizens of all ages.
  • Makes well over 8,000 referrals to God's Pantry and other local feeding operations. So that our most vulnerable citizens (children, young families and seniors) can eat.
  • Click Here → CAC Website 
  • Click Here → CAC Facebook
  • Here's a fantastic video about the history of the Community Action Movement that was the genesis of Community Action Council agencies across the country.

Step By Step, Lexington (SBS):

  • Helps young single mothers, ages 14 to 24 -- sometimes even as young as 12. Find the encouragement they need to accomplish their dreams!
  • Mission: "[I]mprove the lives of young single mothers and their children through healing, encouragement, faith and education."
  • Vision: "[A] Lexington that heals and empowers young, single mothers to positively impact their family and community."
  • As Tanya discussed, the road of a young single mother must travel is a difficult one. SBSnavigate barriers so young mothers can reach their goals. Always meeting them with love and understanding. NOT disapproval and judgment.
  • SBS provides guidance through intensive mentoring, support groups, life skills and parenting workshops, fun bonding activities for moms and their children, “Dare to Dream” goal setting sessions, and much more.
  • Offers a supportive, safe space to empower young single mothers with the skills and confidence they need to navigate the difficult obstacles. And blaze a trail towards promising futures for themselves and their families.
  • Click Here → SBS Website
  • Click Here → SBS Facebook


Up Next (September 15th)

Many THANKS again to Tanya Torp, Executive Director of Step By Step, Lexington. And Melissa Kane Tibbs, Director of Planning, Communications, and Advancement for Community Action Council!

Please tune in to our next show on September 15th, 10 - 11 am, 93.9 FM WLXU Lexington Community Radio.

Our guests will be Malcolm Ratchford, Executive Director of Community Action Council. And Mike Halligan Executive Director of God's Pantry. As we continue our examination of poverty and hunger in our community. Please join us for another compelling conversation!