Food insecurity on the rise among middle class families

More than three-quarters of Florida adults are having a harder time affording groceries compared to this time last year.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Special to the Outlook

Many Floridians are experiencing symptoms of food insecurity, even those employed with median or higher household incomes, according to a recent poll commissioned by No Kid Hungry Florida. 

Forty-one percent of adults reported one or more symptoms of food insecurity in the last year. Parents and Floridians who reside in rural areas are being hit the hardest. Nearly half of the parents (47 percent) and rural respondents (48 percent) experienced one or more symptoms of food insecurity in the last year. Even middle income Floridians are facing hunger at substantial rates, with more than a third (36 percent) of households making between $50,000-$100,000 reporting at least one indicator of food insecurity (Florida’s median household income is $61,777). 

“I expect it will come as a surprise to many just how pervasive food insecurity is all across our state,” said No Kid Hungry Florida Director Sky Beard. “These numbers tell us that we all have a neighbor, a colleague or a friend struggling to feed their family. With the rising cost of food and other essentials there are so many working parents skipping meals so their children can eat, or living just one emergency or unexpected expense away from hunger.” 

Many families are struggling to put food on the table. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Florida adults are having a harder time affording groceries compared to this time last year. Among parents, 71 percent said they would worry they might not be able to buy groceries if faced with an emergency or unexpected expense, such as a car repair or medical bill. 

“More and more families are experiencing the signs of food insecurity and Floridians want to see solutions,” said Beard. “Nearly all of our respondents supported childhood hunger as a top priority for our state’s elected officials. They want a bipartisan solution to this challenging problem.” 

Floridians shared their challenges when faced with affording food for their families:

“I am a single mom on a low income. I am struggling to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table. Some days I skip meals because my kids might want seconds,” said a Miami-Dade area resident and Florida Hunger Survey respondent. “I have had to tell my child ‘no, I can’t afford that right now’ when he wanted to buy more vegetables and fruit. We eat far more boxed dinners than I am comfortable with because everything got more expensive. (I have gone hungry) recently so my child didn’t have to,” shared another respondent in Hillsborough County. 

Key Findings: 

Parents and rural Floridians are struggling, with 47 percent of parents and 48 percent of rural respondents having experienced one or more symptoms of food insecurity in the past year. A quarter of parents (26 percent) and of rural Floridians (24 percent) worried that they wouldn’t have enough food for their household. 

It’s getting harder and harder to afford groceries, with three-quarters (76 percent) of Floridians reporting they are having a harder time affording groceries now compared to this time last year. 

Many Floridians are just one emergency away from a hunger: A significant majority (66 percent) of respondents say they would be worried about their ability to buy groceries if they had an unexpected $1,500 expense like a car repair or medical bill. Among parents and rural Floridians, this number is even higher at 71 percent and 74 percent, respectively. 

Even middle-income families are greatly affected as more than a third (36 percent) of respondents with annual household incomes between $50,000-$100,000 reported facing food insecurity in the past year. 

There is overwhelming support for ending childhood hunger in Florida with an overwhelming majority (95 percent) of Floridians agreeing that ending childhood hunger should be a top priority for the state’s elected officials, and nearly all (97 percent) agreeing ending child hunger should be a bipartisan issue. 

Floridians support school-based meal programs to address child hunger, with 90 percent agreeing that these programs should be expanded. 

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