Food insecurity grows - Tucson News Now

Food insecurity grows

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

 According to a new study, Arizona is one of the worst in the nation when it comes to food insecurity, especially among children.

One of the reasons, according to Fair Share Education Fund,  is because poverty is spreading to areas which were once considered immune, the suburbs.

In the past, poverty and the related food issues were thought to be confined to the inner city and rural areas.

But the study shows the suburbs have shown the biggest increase in large part it seems because of jobs and wages.

That's no surprise to the people who work in social services.

"We have a lot of minimum wage jobs here and high paying jobs like Raytheon and the University," says Terri Patt-Smith, a director at the Interfaith Food Bank on Ina Road. "And not that sustainable wage." 

And what would be a sustainable wage.

"A sustainable income," she says. $20 n hour foan sustain a family in middle class."

Patt-Smith says many people who now use her services were once contributors and most are from the lower foothills, "above River Road," she says.

Another measure of just how far the food insecurity problem has spread is expressed by Nina Straw, who is collecting funds to feed children on the weekends when they don't have school programs to sustain them.

It's called Blessings in a Backpack.

"I was shocked, really shocked," she says when she found out a majority of the children in Bloom Elementary School were eligible for free or low cost school meals.

"This is the East side," she says. "Nobody thinks there's hungry kids."

She was shocked to find out, out of 357 students, nearly 60% were eligible for free or government subsidized meals.

And she's familiar with why.

"When we started the program, we spent $80 dollars per child per year," she says. "Last year, it cost $95 per child per year, for the same food."

That 20% she says can make a difference whether the children eat or not eat, especially on the weekends.

And this year, she suspects it will be more.

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