Key Point

Six in 10 people living below the poverty line worry that their food may run out before they have money to buy more.

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Let’s Break It Down

People living below the poverty line in northeast and southeast Omaha are affected by hunger more than the rest of the community.

While many in our community may never have to think about when they’ll have enough money to purchase more food for themselves or their family, 161,122 (20%) of our neighbors worry that their food may run out before they can afford to purchase more. The rate jumps to 66% for those who live below the poverty line and 44% for those who live at up to two times the poverty line. 

Breaking that down further, it rises to 50% for those who are Hispanic and 37% for people who are Black compared to only 15% for those who are White. Looking at it by geography, the rate is 35% in northeast Omaha, 33% in southeast Omaha, and 20% in Pottawattamie County. 

Why Does It Matter?

Hunger can be an underlying cause of other issues like job performance or behavior problems at school.

Typically, people who experience hunger also struggle with employment, housing, and other aspects of health. When a family is facing these kind of challenges, nutrition and food costs are often seen as an adjustable expense. Many families will choose to eat less, buy cheaper (and often less healthy) food, or sometimes even go without food in order to pay for rent, utilities, and other necessities.

Children impacted by hunger may have difficulty concentrating in school and may have a greater risk of exhibiting behavioral issues. For some students, the meal they receive at school may be the only meal they get for the day. In addition, fast or unhealthy food may be the quickest, most inexpensive option for families which can lead to unhealthy habits and possibly to being overweight or obese

Many students impacted by hunger often qualify for a free or reduced lunch, based on their family's income. Within the Omaha Public Schools, the largest school district in the area, 73% (38,527) of students received a free or reduced lunch during the 2015-16 school year which is up from 54% in 2002-2003. Of the eight districts in Pottawattamie County, 50% (7,533) of all students received a free or reduced lunch. In the largest district, Council Bluffs Community Schools, 64% (5,512) of students received a free or reduced lunch in the 2015-16 school year.

How do we compare?

Our hunger rate is higher than the national average according to some estimates.

The Community Health Needs Assessment does not include a national comparison for this particular question within the survey, which makes comparison outside of our community difficult. However, other data sources have estimated the number of people who struggle to access healthy food. According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 (14%) adults in the United States lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable food.

Data Source: 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment (geographic area includes Douglas, Sarpy, Cass and Pottawattamie Counties), Omaha Public Schools Free or Reduced Lunch Report 2015-2016 & Iowa Department of Education

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