Feeding Florida's Hungry

There are still thousands of families who don’t get enough to eat, and advocates hope lawmakers will do more to help.

Over the past five years, Florida has made a lot of progress in addressing hunger and nutrition among its low-income residents.

Fennie Hall is one example. The 22-year-old mother admits she didn’t think much about what she ate until she enrolled in the WIC program that helps pregnant women learn about nutrition.

Fennie says, “It benefited me a whole lot being that I’m a single parent as for me trying to eat right. I’m young and most young people don’t eat right.”

Participation in WIC has gone up 10 percent in Florida since 2000. Fourteen percent more children are getting free or reduced breakfast in school, and the number of summer lunch sites has nearly doubled. But the percentage of hungry Florida families is still higher than the national average. Nearly 12 out of every 100 adults and kids here don’t have enough to eat.

Even top officials acknowledge they aren’t reaching everyone.

Dr. John Agwunobi, Florida Health Secretary, says, “Just up the street there are individuals who don’t know whether or not they’ll have dinner this evening. There are still kids who came to school not having had dinner last night.”

Last year advocates were angered when an effort to expand summer meals programs got derailed by political bickering between legislative leaders.

Debra Susie of Florida Impact says, “The summer food program is non-existent again this year in about six or seven counties and we know there are children there who could use the program, but for whatever logistical reasons, it’s not getting done.”

Hungry kids hope lawmakers on the state and federal level have a change of heart this year. Latest figures were not readily available for Georgia. Nationwide, the number of hungry families has risen since 2000 to now make up 11 percent of the population.