A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Food insecurity in the region: Health survey shows sobering 2 in 10 are hungry or close to hunger

More than 2 in 10 adults in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (24 percent) have experienced food insecurity in the past year. “It is a sobering thought to know that so many of our neighbors are either going hungry or very close to hunger,” says O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President/CEO of Interact for Health.

Those results come from the 2017 Community Health Status Survey (CHSS), sponsored by Interact for Health.

These adults agreed with one or both of these two statements:

1. Within the past 12 months we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.

2. Within the past 12 months the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.

Food insecurity may include reduced food intake or reduced quality and variety in diet. “Access to nutritious food is important for the health of both children and adults,” explains Dr. Owens. “Adults who experience food insecurity are at increased risk for poor overall health and chronic diseases.”

Tony Fairhead, Executive Director of Childhood Food Solutions, says, “These questions were asked in a way that allowed respondents to answer confidentially, without fear of repercussion, thus giving us a true picture of what is happening. Face-to-face, parents and guardians cannot admit to running out of food for fear their children will be placed in foster care. They simply hope they won’t run out of food next month.”


Income plays a role in food insecurity

Food insecurity is closely linked to income. More than 6 in 10 adults earning 100% or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG)* have experienced food insecurity in the past year, compared with 4 in 10 adults earning 100% to 200% FPG and 1 in 10 earning more than 200% FPG. Adds Fairhead, “And more than half of those in poverty said that at some point in the past year the food they had didn’t last and they didn’t have money to get more. That translates to more than 100,000 of our neighbors. For those with children, the worst days are non-school days when their food has to stretch to replace school meals.”
Food insecurity varies by location

The percentage of adults who are food insecure is higher in certain areas within the region. Nearly 3 in 10 Northern Kentucky adults (28 percent) reported food insecurity. About 3 in 10 adults living in the city of Cincinnati and rural Indiana counties also are likely to be food insecure. This compares with 2 in 10 adults in Hamilton County suburbs, suburban Ohio counties, and rural Ohio counties.
Younger adults, African Americans more likely to report food insecurity

Adults ages 65 and older are less likely than those younger than 65 to experience food insecurity. Nearly 3 in 10 adults younger than 65 answered yes to one or both questions, compared with fewer than 2 in 10 adults ages 65 and older.

African American adults are nearly twice as likely as White adults to have experienced food insecurity in the last year.
More information about Greater Cincinnati adults’ food insecurity, and other topics, is available online .
The 2017 Community Health Status Survey (CHSS) was conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati for Interact for Health. A total of 4,261 randomly selected adults residing in eight Ohio counties, nine Kentucky counties, and five Indiana counties were interviewed by telephone between August 10, 2016, and March 8, 2017. This included 1,906 landline interviews and 2,355 cell phone interviews. The potential sampling error for the overall survey data is ±1.5%. For more information about the CHSS and a list of community partners, please visit the website.

Interact for Health builds healthy communities for all people. We serve as a catalyst for health and wellness by promoting healthy living through grants, education, research, policy and engagement. Interact for Health is an independent foundation that serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. More information is available on our website.
The mission of Childhood Food Solutions (CFS) is to develop solutions for childhood food insecurity. This CHSS survey confirms the enormous magnitude of hunger in our region. For more than 8 years, CFS has been working to end food insecurity in one low-income Cincinnati ZIP code. CFS gets food into the hands of children to carry them over their non-school days. “Thank you” notes confirm that children share their food with their families so CFS began to provide more “filling” groceries that will stand the best chance of lasting through tough times like the long school breaks — winter, spring and summer. Find us on the web.

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One Comment

  1. Great data and unfortunate circumstances for many in our communities. Please support GO Pantry, local non-profit organization, that battles this issue of child hunger in our schools.

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