Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s food insecurity data, an organization called Hunger Free America highlighted some troubling statistics regarding how hunger is affecting adults and children.

KGVO News spoke to Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, who related some important statistics about hunger in Montana.

115,000 Montana Adults and Children are 'Food Insecure'

“Hunger Free America's analysis of settled data found that there are 115,000 Montanans living in households that can't always afford enough food,” began Berg. “One in seven Montana children live in homes that struggle against hunger, and to a different series of data from the US Census Bureau, we found out that between 2020 and 2023, there was an 83 percent increase in Montanans who couldn't afford enough food.”

Berg said both federal and state governments have curtailed their benefits to Montana individuals and families.

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Federal and State Hunger Programs have been Cut Back

“The reason we believe that hunger is skyrocketing in Montana and around the rest of the country is that the key pieces of federal aid that dropped hunger during the pandemic; expanded SNAP benefits that used to be called Food Stamps benefits; universal school meals; easier to get WIC benefits for pregnant women and children under five and the Child Tax Credit Program which gave people cash for meeting basic living expenses, including food, all were significantly curtailed,” he said.

According to Berg, another piece to the puzzle is a bit harder to understand, and that is the fact that Montanans themselves are not taking advantage of the programs that still exist to help hungry families.

Montanans are not Accessing Food Programs as Much as they Could Be

“There's also a problem in Montana, that the existing federal programs are significantly underutilized,” he said. “21 percent of all the people eligible for SNAP (what used to be called food stamps in Montana) don't get it. When it comes to WIC (Women, Infants and Children) more than half the people eligible for the benefits didn't receive it in 2021. In addition, only about half the kids who get school lunches, get their school breakfasts. But while we need the federal government to step up to do more, the state government can actually better utilize those existing federal funds, so that the state makes sure to utilize federal highway funds.”

Berg also said that nearly five percent of Montana seniors live in ‘food insecure households’.

Click here for more details about Hunger Free America.

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