Statewide survey shows food insecurity is top challenge for Hoosiers seeking assistance


INDIANAPOLIS – A statewide map built by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration indicates food insecurity is the most pressing need among Hoosiers who are seeking financial help from the state.

The FSSA’s Hoosier Health & Well-Being Atlas, published August 24, collected data over the last two years from people applying online for state health coverage, SNAP or TANF. The survey asked 10 different questions related to health and well-being. Among the more than 305,000 Hoosiers surveyed, about 47-percent said they had eaten less than they should at some time during the last 12 months because they didn’t have enough money to buy food.

The results of the survey come as no surprise to Bonne Woessner, who helps manage the Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County. The pantry, like others around the state, has seen unprecedented demand for food assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic added to a need that was already there. Woessner spoke as clients seeking food assistance were winding their way through a three-hour drive-thru food distribution at the pantry’s location in Franklin.

“This week, we’ve gotten up to about 150 families a day, which is a lot in that 3-hour duration,” Woessner said.

The survey results also come as national surveys reveal Americans are spending less money on groceries since the start of the pandemic.

“Everyone is sensitive to the economic uncertainty that’s in the country and around the world right now, so they’re being cautious,” said Kroger spokesperson Eric Halvorson. “We know that there’s a dramatic increase in requests for service, often from people who have never needed help before the pandemic.”

The survey results also come as many grocery prices remain higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions to the U.S. supply chain. Halvorson said retail grocery stores are still working to bounce back from the effects of the disruptions.

“If prices go up and we have to pass them along, we know that’s going to make our customers concerned and wary about what they’re spending and that’s why they may be a little cautious about how much they spend at a time,” Halvorson said. “We do everything we can to bring them down as quickly as possible, bring them back to normal as quickly as possible so the savings go back into the pocket of our customers.”

The 10 questions on the survey were:

  • In the last 12 months, did you ever eat less than you felt you should because there wasn’t enough money for food?
  • In the last 12 months, has your utility company shut off your service for not paying your bills? 
  • Are you worried that in the next 2 months, you may not have stable housing? 
  • Do problems getting child care make it difficult for you to work or study?
  • In the last 12 months, have you needed to see a doctor but could not because of cost? 
  • In the last 12 months, have you ever had to go without health care because you didn’t have a way to get there? 
  • Do you ever need help reading hospital materials? 
  • Are you afraid you might be hurt in your apartment building or house? 
  • During the last 4 weeks, have you been actively looking for work? 
  • In the last 12 months, other than household activities or work, do you engage in moderate exercise (walking fast, jogging, swimming, biking or weight lifting) at least three times per week? 

“This type of data, which includes age, race and education demographics, will help us uncover disparities our populations face in accessing services needed to provide for their families, seek medical care, find and keep gainful employment, and pursue a safe and healthy life,” Governor Eric Holcomb said in a statement.

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