Study shows food insecurity high in Eastern Kentucky

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Results were released last week for a national study done by Feeding America. The study shows that many Eastern Kentuckians do not know where their next meal will come from.

The study is called 'Map the Meal Gap' and it localizes the issue of hunger on a county level.

Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, Tamara Sandberg says, "It shows that hunger remains a persistent problem in the commonwealth. Here in Kentucky 750,000 people don't always know where they will find their next meal. That's 17% or 1 out of 6 in our population."

That rate is slightly higher than the national average of 16%.

Local food banks and food pantries work to assist those struggling with finding their next meal.

The First Church of God in Paintsville gives out more than 500,000 pounds of food each year. Pastor Dan Heaberlin says, "Our goal was to help 10 families a month, it didn't take long till we got up to 170, 180...but now we are helping 400 families a month with their food."

Marian Guinn, CEO of God's Pantry Food Bank explains, "Many individuals and families routinely have to make tough choices and often times food is the loser."

Fulton County in Western Kentucky tops the study with more than 23% of the population struggling with hunger but is closely followed by many Eastern Kentucky counties with Wolfe and Jackson counties at more than 22%and Magoffin, Clay, Knox, and Bell counties not far behind, all with more than 21% of their population struggling with hunger.

Sandberg says, "Unacceptable in a country that wastes billions of pounds of food each year, there is more than enough food in America to feed every man, woman, and child."

God's Pantry Food Bank, which serves Central and Eastern Kentucky recently upgraded their Prestonsburg distribution center and just last week purchased a 10,000 square foot facility in Laurel County that will serve as another distribution center for the area.

Guinn says, "We do have a very high incident of food insecurity as compared to some areas in the rest of the United States. We are working to increase the amount of food as well as the quality of food that is available."

Officials say there is often a common misconception about the nature of domestic hunger and who exactly is struggling.

Sandberg explains, "Hunger affects people you see everyday..the cashier at the grocery store, a child in your daughter's class, a senior citizen down the street who requires expensive medication. Hunger once was a problem for low wage earners, it is now a problem for people in all walks of life."

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