Wesleyan’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute is currently working on a hunger data analysis project in the local Middletown community. Read on for details!
In the spring of 2005, a group of Wesleyan students conducted a survey among Middletown families with children in public schools to evaluate their level of food insecurity (food insecurity meaning the lack of consumption of nutritious food). The survey determined that 16.1% of those polled have low or very low food insecurity. In the spring of 2011, the Roosevelt Institute repeated this survey and found that the number had jumped to 33.2%. In the following semester (fall of 2011), the Roosevelt Institute — in conjunction with the Hunger and Housing student forum — has set out to analyze this data, to explain how and why the food insecurity spiked so drastically.
Those students who investigated found that several factors may have had an impact on the food insecurity levels in Middletown from 2005 to 2011. Those included the economic recession, Middletown income, job growth, rent increase, demographic changes, and price inflation.
Jobs Created/Lost: This economic recession has created far fewer jobs and lost far more jobs in comparison with previous US economic downturns. Middletown would have been affected by this loss in jobs along with the rest of the United States, signifying that many lost their jobs, lost income, and found it difficult to purchase food.
Poverty Levels: Poverty has increased across the nation since the recession. Poverty, therefore, also increased in Middletown, leaving less money for food. As a side note, in November of 2011, the US unemployment rate did decrease to 8.6%, however this may be due to seasonal employment and a loss of those who participate in the labor workforce.
Poverty Among Youth: Poverty is much more prevalent in the population under 18. Poverty is also common, but less so among older people. This is significant because our data shows food insecurity in families with children in the public school system.
Middletown Income: The median income in Middletown is far below that of Connecticut. This is significant because Middletown residents have less disposable income than that of their Connecticut counterparts, which may possibly affect food insecurity in the city.
Job Growth: Though Middletown has had positive job growth over the years, as opposed to the negative job growth of Bridgeport and the state of Connecticut as a whole, the drop in job growth after the recession (from 2007 to 2011) has been much more significant proportionally than the drop in job growth in Bridgeport or Connecticut. In fact, job growth dropped 7% in these years, whereas it actually rose somewhat in Bridgeport and Connecticut. This is significant because it shows that Middletown in particular has suffered from a major drop in job growth, as opposed to the rise in job growth experienced by Bridgeport and Connecticut. If jobs are growing at a much slower rate in Middletown, then, it is more difficult for Middletown residents to get jobs, income is harder to come by, and food is less easily accessible and purchasable.
Rent Increase: Not only did Connecticut’s rent start out higher than that of the national rate in 2005 – at $839 as compared to the U.S.’s $728 – but it also spiked at a higher rate than that of the United States after the recession – to $1,006 as compared to the U.S.’s $842. The change in the national is only $114 between 2005 and 2009, whereas the change in Connecticut’s rent in $167. This is significant because the large rent increase in Connecticut greatly affects those living near and below the poverty line. When residents are forced to spend an increasing percentage of their monthly income on rent, they are left forfeiting other necessities such as food and healthcare. Furthermore, to couple this evidence with that of previous slides, if Middletown residents have less income and fewer jobs than the rest of Connecticut, yet have the same high rent, they are squeezed financially even more.
Demographic Changes: From 2000 to 2010, as the graph shows, the percentage of the Middletown population made up by whites went down 5%, whereas the percentage made up by minorities went up 5%. 3 of this 5% consists of Hispanics, and 1% of African Americans. Look to the next explanation for the significance.
Median Household Income by Race: Whereas the white population makes an average of $57,518 per year, the African American population only makes $35,104, and the Hispanic population even less, at $32,075. If the proportion of Hispanic and African American populations has increased in Middletown, the proportion of whites has decreased, and whites are known to make significantly more than minorities, than it follows that the current population of Middletown makes less money in 2010 than it did in 2000. This could be a very significant margin, according to our numbers. If Middletown families have less money, then, once again, they have less to spend on food.
Price Inflation: The price of flour – a basic good, which is representative of other food items – has gone up significantly from January of 2005 to January of 2011. This is significant because it portrays the price inflation of a basic food item throughout the economic recession. If flour has gone up and flour can reflect other food items, then we can conclude that it is likely the price of all food has gone up. Therefore, the same amount of money purchases less food, and Middletown residents – who, as previous slide have shown, have less money than they did in 2000, and than residents of Connecticut – cannot afford enough food – especially nutritious food.