Photo by Victoria St. Martin

Intro: Exploring Hunger in DC

The Hungry DC Reporting Team

The story of hunger and food insecurity in the Washington metro area cannot be explained only through statistics. Behind each number is a family, a child, or a neighbor who has a unique story. But each story starts with numbers.

Capital Area Food Bank CEO Nancy Roman.

Capital Area Food Bank CEO Nancy Roman. Photo by D’Ante Smith.

See the full transcript of the interview with Capital Area Food Bank CEO Nancy Roman and D.C. Director of the Capital Area Food Bank Paula Reichel.

From 2010 to 2012—the most recent period of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food security report—12 percent of D.C. households, or 35,800 homes, were food insecure. While hunger is the more widely used term, the USDA uses “food security” to determine how easily households are able to access food. The USDA says a household is food insecure if it has “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food.” Simply put, food insecurity is when a household is unable to acquire adequate food. “People are beginning to realize that you deteriorate much more quickly if you don’t have the proper nutrition,” Nancy Roman, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, the largest food bank in the D.C. area, told reporter D’Ante Smith. “At every stage of a human being’s development, food and nutrition is absolutely critical.” In 2014, thousands of people in the D.C. area will access food banks and programs like SNAP and WIC. There are also dozens of organizations working on issues related to food insecurity, and D.C. has taken steps to build healthier schools and broaden access to farmers’ markets. “In the ‘60s they did much of it out of compassion,” Roman said. “Now there is a real reason to work on hunger to really build the kind of society you want.” Families facing food insecurity can be found in every ward and neighborhood, affecting everyone from children to the elderly, to veterans and suburban homeowners. This project will tell some of their stories.

Glossary of Hunger Terms

  • Farm Bill – The Agricultural Act of 2014 is a $956 billion bill that addresses everything from food stamps and nutrition to crop insurance. The bill, signed into law Feb. 7, also includes $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next decade, which critics say will hurt millions of Americans who rely on food stamps.
  • Food Security – The USDA defines food security as, “access by all people at all time to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
  • Food Insecurity – When a household has limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or is unable to acquire such foods in socially acceptable ways. In D.C., 12 percent of households are food insecure.
  • Hunger – An individual physiological condition that results from food insecurity.
  • SNAP – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is the largest program in the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. When people discuss “food stamps,” they are talking about SNAP, which provides support for low-income households and individuals afford food. In 2014, 46.9 million Americans will participate in SNAP.
  • Very low food security – A more severe condition of food insecurity where the eating patterns and food intake of a household member is disrupted because of insufficient money or resources for food. In D.C., 4.9 percent of households have very low food security.
  • WIC – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, is a federal grant program that provides food support, education, and health screening and referrals for women and children that fall below 185 percent of the federal poverty line.