Posts Tagged ‘food security’

Nearly 900,000 Alabamians, 300,000 Children, Live in Poverty

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Alabama is the nation’s seventh poorest stateNearly 900,000 Alabamians, including 300,000 children, live in poverty according to a new analysis released today by Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization that works to reduce systemic poverty and its root causes across the state.

The statewide research is included in Alabama Possible’s 2014 Data Sheet. This annual report provides a statewide and county-by-county snapshot of poverty in the state, including the percent of Alabamians living in poverty by race, household type, region, and education level. An individual is considered living in poverty if one’s household fails to earn enough annually to meet one’s basic food, clothing, and shelter needs. In the United States, a family of four must earn at least $23,850 in order to be considered living above the poverty line.

According to the Alabama Possible analysis, Alabama is the seventh poorest state in the nation. Only Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico have a higher percentage of its residents living in poverty than Alabama.

“Understanding the facts about poverty can help communities make decisions about what public and private anti-poverty initiatives are needed to help families in their area break the cycle of poverty,” said Kristina Scott, the executive director of Alabama Possible. “We hope that Alabamians will use this data sheet to discuss job creation, consider legislative policy, or lead a class or Sunday school discussion.”

According to Alabama Possible’s analysis, only eight of the state’s 67 counties have a poverty rate less than the national average of 15.9 percent. An equal number of counties statewide have a poverty rate greater than double the national average.

Dallas County has the highest percentage of individuals living in poverty (36.8 percent), while Shelby County has the lowest amount (8.7 percent). Shelby County is also the only county in Alabama where the percent of those living poverty is below 10 percent.

The 2014 Data Sheet also shares the percent of Alabamians who are unemployed, a breakdown of the state’s median household incomes, as well as the percentage of Alabamians who are obese, live with diabetes, participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and whose children receive free or reduced lunches at school.

You can download the 2014 Data Sheet via the Alabama Possible website,

The Alabama Possible Poverty Data Sheet is based on information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Alabama Department of Public Health Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Alabama Possible is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing systematic poverty and its root cause across Alabama. AP educates Alabamians about poverty, collaborates with colleges and faith-based institutions on poverty-reduction activities and advocates for fact-based policy decisions. AP was founded in 1993 and is based in Birmingham, Al. For more information visit

What’s on your plate?

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Temple Beth-El Earth Day Community Conversation Connects Local Food, Anti-Hunger Efforts

photoOn Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining Little Savannah Co-Owner Maureen Holt, a slow food advocate, for an Earth Day community conversation with Temple Beth-El (TBE) members about local food and anti-hunger efforts in Birmingham.

Alabama has the second highest rate of hunger in the country, and Birmingham has the 12th highest rate of food hardship amongst major metro areas. It is also nationally known for its local food scene.

Thus, I was challenged to connect eating local and fighting hunger. As I followed along with the day’s Torah readings, a passage from Leviticus Chapter 19 jumped out at me: “you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great.”

Exactly, I said to myself. Locally grown produce and farmers markets should not just be for the affluent; in a just society, there should be choices available to all of us, regardless of income.

In order to build food justice, we need many different kinds of people, organizations and businesses within a community to work together to increase access to healthy, affordable, fresh food produced and processed locally.

While many Birmingham residents are familiar with the Pepper Place Farmers Market, WE Gardens and the Eastlake Farmers Market also host regular markets. Eastlake accepts SNAP/EBT and Senior Nutrition Coupons. To find a farmers market near you (or in a community you would like to explore), check out this list from the Year of Alabama Food and this one from the Greater Birmingham Community Food Partners.

Many thanks to TBE Community Conversation Co-Chair and APP Board Chair Joyce Spielberger for inviting me to speak to her congregation. Thank you also to her Community Conversation Co-Chair Toby Siegel and TBE Executive Director Bob Greenberg for coordinating the program.

We are especially grateful to have TBE join our faith partnership with a monetary donation.  TBE’s Earth Day program was sponsored by Dalia & Keith Abrams, Suzanne & Howard Bearman, Chico Bomchel Memorial Social Action Fund, Barbara Bonfield, Barbara & Scott Brande, Cherie & Bob Greenberg, Sheri & Jimmy Krell, Vicki & Art Lewis, Esther Schuster & Allen Shealy, Gail & Abe Schuster, and Joyce Spielberger.

For information about APP’s anti-hunger work, or how your faith community can join APP’s Faith Partnership, please contact me at 205.939.1408 or

Above: TBE Community Conversation Co-Chair and APP Board Chair Joyce Spielberger, APP ED Kristina Scott, and TBE Community Conversation Co-Chair Toby Siegel outside Temple Beth-El.


Alabama is fat and hungry? Yes, it is.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

On Saturday September 22, the Wetumpka Herald posted a column from Managing Editor Peggy Blackburn with the headline “Alabama is Fat and Hungry?” Here’s an excerpt:

One report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranks Alabama as fourth in adult obesity rate at 32 percent of the population.

That seems like a reasonable estimate, especially given the charts used in determining if a person’s weight is under, over or in the normal range. I know some muscular folks the charts actually gauge as overweight.

Contrarily, a report published by the Food Research and Action Center said 23.4 percent of the state’s residents reported that they couldn’t afford enough food for their families and also reported going hungry. That is the second highest percentage in the country.

It is difficult for me to reconcile the state being the fourth most obese while at the same time being the second hungriest.

The categories are so specific it seems unlikely any of the people in one group could qualify for the other. If the respondents are all different, that would mean only 45 percent of Alabamians are neither overeating nor starving.

I don’t say it’s impossible, but it seems odd.

Although we applaud the managing editor’s efforts to educate herself about obesity and poverty in Alabama, we felt her article mischaracterized the data. We sent this letter in response:

Dear Ms. Blackburn:

This email is in response to your column “Alabama is fat and hungry?” which was posted on Saturday.

Today it is quite common to be both hungry and obese.

Poverty causes hunger, and nearly 1 in 5 Alabamians live in poverty. Poor families contend with challenges like low wages, part-time work, and unemployment – factors that make it difficult to afford food.

Conversely, obesity impacts Alabamians of all walks of life. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in 2011, 31 percent of Alabama adults were obese.

The Food Research and Action Center cites some reasons why low-income people are especially prone to obesity, including:

• Many low-income communities lack full-service grocery stores but have a proliferation of convenience stores that do not stock fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.

• Healthy, low fat food is more expensive than low cost, high calorie options.

• Low-income communities have fewer recreation options and higher rates of crime. These higher crime rates (or fear of crime) cause many families to keep their children indoors. Poor kids also do not have the same access to afterschool and summertime recreational activities and sports.

• Being poor is often stressful, which can result in disordered eating, reduced physical activity, and depression – all factors related to weight gain. In addition, hunger and/or poverty can cause production of a stress hormone that is associated with obesity.

The Alabama Poverty Project is a nonprofit resource center dedicated to reducing systemic poverty and its root causes across Alabama. APP educates citizens about poverty, motivates colleges and faith-based institutions to engage in poverty-reduction activities, and advocates for fact-based policy decisions statewide.

We invite Alabamians who are interested in learning more to visit our web site at

Kristina Scott

Executive Director, Alabama Poverty Project