Who’s Going Hungry in Amarillo—And Why?

A satellite can zoom in close enough to read the writing on a dime in the middle of a street in Amarillo. There is a Google App that allows you to type in any address in America and you can see the house and the entire neighborhood. So my question is this: If we zoom in on Amarillo how many people are going hungry? Where do these people live? What are the top three reasons for hunger in Amarillo?

Right now the High Plains Food Bank is conducting a food drive seeking donations. You can visit their website for more information about hunger in the high plains. According to data found at this website http://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Amarillo-Texas.html the poverty rate in Amarillo is 23 percent. What this data shows is that 23 percent of Amarillo’s children live in poverty, that 42.5 percent of high school dropouts live in poverty, 20 percent of those with only a high school diploma live in poverty, that African Americans have the highest percent of poverty in Amarillo, that Hispanics are the highest total number of those in poverty, that females without husbands represent over half of those in poverty, that over half of the residents living in poverty do not work, that 39 percent of those in poverty work part time, 37 percent are married couples, and that 65.5 percent of those living in poverty are renters.

A couple of years ago, the local Public Broadcasting Network devoted several hours to the problem of poverty in Amarillo. The primary take away from the program that most of the people living in poverty in Amarillo are children and the working poor. What can a high school dropout earn in Amarillo? What is the hourly wage of someone with just a high school diploma in Amarillo? What do part-time jobs pay in Amarillo? Are these wages enough to cover essential needs, primarily housing, utilities, transportation and food?

In May 2015 the City of Amarillo Community Development Department issued a report entitled, “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice,” that can be found at this link: http://comdev.amarillo.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Analysis-of-Impediment-2015-Updated-6-5-15-COMPLETE.pdf/ On page v this report says: “… the income classes with the highest number of households, for Whites was the $50,000 to $74,999 category with 19.4 percent earning in this income range. In comparison, 17.4 percent of Hispanic households and 12.0 of African-American households had incomes in this range. The most frequently reported income class for African-Americans and Hispanics was the $15,000 to $24,999 income range with 18.1 percent of Hispanic households and 18.8 percent of African-American households. Thirty-three percent of Hispanic households earned less than $25,000 per year, compared to 22.4 percent of White households and 47.0 percent of African-American households. According to the 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates (5-year average), the median household income for White households was $51,545, compared to $26,361 for African-American households, $34,167 for Hispanic households.” Under the topic of “poverty the report says this: “The poverty data reveals that poverty is disproportionately impacting African-American and Hispanic populations in the City. The incidence of poverty among Hispanics in Amarillo was 28.1 percent of their total population between 2008 and 2012 and 35.0 percent among African-Americans, compared to 9.5 percent of White persons reported to be living in poverty. Highest concentrations of poverty are found in northwest and central Amarillo, where rates range from 39 to 52 percent by census tract.”

According to this report the people most likely to go hungry in Amarillo are black and Hispanic. The obvious connection between race and poverty—and therefore hungry seems to be race or ethnicity. But does this fully explain hunger in Amarillo? If a satellite could zoom in on every household in Amarillo, what would it reveal about the real causes of hunger in Amarillo? When 65 percent of those in poverty are renting, does this suggest that a disproportionate part of their already low income is going for rent? If 33 percent of Hispanic households and 47 percent of African American households earn less than $25,000, and, if these household include children, going hungry should not come as a surprise. The latest data from the U. S. Department of Agriculture says that it costs between $141 and $289 a week to feed a family of four. At the lowest end that means $564 a month for food. Add this to rent, $700 a month, utilities $150, transportation $100, child care, clothing, medicine, and other miscellaneous expenses, people are stretched to the limits just trying to survive.

And what will happen if Trump has his way with his budget cuts to School lunch, meals on wheels, and food stamps. The latest proposal is to cut food stamps because too many people are overweight. The Republican offering this suggestion seems to be wholly ignorant of the fact that over 20 percent of very fit military families are also on food stamps. In the meantime, Amarillo has a wide swatch of resources to address local hunger, including the High Plains Food Bank, church pantries, church women who provide prepared foods to local veterans, church outreach programs such as Cornerstone and City Church, the annual Post Office food drive, and meals on wheels. But, in the meantime grocery prices continue to increase making it even more difficult to keep food on the table. And the worse is yet to come.

Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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