Many pay close attention to the issue of hunger around the holidays, when families are celebrating abundance and looking for ways to give back to their communities. The Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) would like to offer this brief FAQ guide to reporting hunger in Texas:

Q: How many are hungry in Texas/my county?

According to the USDA, 18.4 percent of Texas households (or one in five) experience “food insecurity.” County level and child food insecurity data can be found at FeedingAmerica.org/MapTheGap.

Q: Is food insecurity the same thing as hunger, or “going to bed hungry?”

No. To better understand the difference, visit TFBN.org/food-insecurity.

Q: Where does Texas rank in comparison to other states?

Due to margins of error, we only know for sure that Texas is in the top 12 states for its food insecurity rate.

Q: Is hunger up or down this year?

Food insecurity trends in relation to the economy. It increased significantly when the recession occurred, and has improved slightly since then. This year, the USDA reported no change in Texas.

Q: What relief is available for hungry families?

The bulk of hunger relief in Texas is handled by federal nutrition programs, in particular SNAP (aka food stamps) and school meals. Assistance is also available through food banks and other charities, as well as public programs for special populations such as seniors.

Q: What is the most recent and/or newsworthy development affecting hungry Texans?

On Nov. 1, each of the four million Texans receiving SNAP experienced a roughly seven percent decrease in their benefits. The state lost $16.7 million in hunger aid this month, and expects to lose $411 million over the next 11 months. This decrease caught many recipients unawares. As a result our food banks may experience increased demand leading up to Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there any newsworthy developments on the horizon?

Congress is continuing to debate drastic cuts to nutrition programs in the farm bill. Provisions approved by the House could take food stamps away from more than 171,000 Texans.

Q: What can our county do to help the hungry?

Food banks are always in need of supplies, and financial donations go further than donations of food. Volunteers are needed, but many food banks are already booked for the holidays — consider donating time in January or February instead. Advocacy is especially necessary right now; a call or letter to Congress to protect the federal nutrition programs could do much more than a bag of food!

Q: Where can I learn more?

Find more statistics about hunger at TFBN.org/latest-statistics, or locate your local food bank at TFBN.org/food-banks.