In Maryland, food insecurity has become a major issue for many households due to the increase of food expenses. (Courtesy Photo)

By Kara Thompson,
Special to the AFRO

The Maryland Food Bank released a special report on July 14 regarding food insecurity in Maryland, and how residents experience food hardships. The goal of this report is to look at data from a variety of resources to see how factors such as housing and wages have an impact on the security of food to individuals. 

“We haven’t done this kind of thing before. We were really pushed into this space coming out of the pandemic because when you look around and you look for actionable data and analysis around food insecurity that’s current, there isn’t any, which is why we authored this report,” said MFB’s Chief Strategy Officer, Meg Kimmel, in an interview with the AFRO. “We really want to be able to understand who’s facing food insecurity, not only in terms of numbers, but in terms of demographics, racial, ethnicity, age, gender, adults, children, and also where are they so that we can do a better job of directing our resources to those communities.” 

An MFB survey from Winter 2021 found that about one-third of Maryland residents have reported negative side effects of food insecurity or hunger. In May 2022, there was an increase of almost 25 percent in the number of people calling the Maryland helpline 211 for food assistance. 

“One collection of data that we looked at was calls to 211, Maryland Food Bank pantry visits, and also Google Trends data that showed an increase of demand by 30 percent between March and May 2022. That’s really staggering,” said Kimmel. “Everyone’s been trying to keep up with the rising cost of inflation, and our report found that the average Maryland family is paying $500 more per month for goods and services compared to this time last year.”

This is not a trend found only within Maryland. The Consumer Price Index indicates that there has been serious impacts of inflation on food costs recently, with a 10.4 percent increase in food prices between June 2021 and June 2022, and a 12.2 percent increase specifically in the “food at home” category within that same time period. 

Morgan State University Economics Professor Dr. Linda Loubert notes that with the increase in food prices, everyone is being affected. 

“If you have been even a contributor to help reduce food insecurity and your prices have gone up, you are now constrained in actually helping,” she said. “So it’s a factor coming from that direction, as well as the people themselves not having enough money to get the food that they may have gotten.”

With the inflation, Loubert says that those receiving food help previously might be receiving less, or people who previously were able to afford food no longer being able to. This includes grocery owners, given that inflation is affecting wholesale prices as well as market and store prices.

Loubert also pointed out that food insecurity now is different than when there were supply chain concerns. “Now, the supply is okay,” but the demand is not “because the amount that you have to pay for that supply has gone up.”

This is why the Maryland Food Bank’s report is so important, and is the first of its kind. 

“Food insecurity is such an important issue. It’s not going away—in fact, it’s getting worse. And so these are the kinds of needs that will have to be resourced if we’re really going to be able to make a difference,” said Kimmel. “We need to be able to see where food insecurity is or where there’s gaps in access to food insecurity, which can be based on systemic racism and barriers to access and how that follows socio economic and racial lines. Being able to see that is a key step in terms of being able to make change.”

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