Food insecurity on the rise in Louisiana

Food insecurity on the rise in Louisiana

Louisiana has seen the largest increase in food insecurity in the last decade, with 1 in 6 households struggling each year to afford a consistent, healthy diet, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Number of the Day

23,400 - Number of jobs Louisiana is predicted to add in 2019, a 1.2 percent increase. (Source: Baton Rouge Advocate)

Louisiana has seen the largest increase in food insecurity in the last decade, with 1 in 6 households struggling each year to afford a consistent, healthy diet, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture. The state’s food insecurity increased by 5.6 percentage points since 2007, much worse than the national average of 0.7 percentage points. LBP’s Danny Mintz breaks down the findings and what it means for Louisiana and the solutions needed to reverse this troubling trend.

This includes 7.1 percent of Louisiana households experiencing very low food security, meaning that a lack of money or other resources disrupted the eating patterns of one or more household members, reducing the amount of food they eat.3 A greater share of Louisiana’s households experienced very-low food security between 2015 and 2017 than in any other state. These rates of food hardship point to the need for Louisiana to adopt policies such as a livable state minimum wage that would lift the fortunes of its low and moderate income residents. They also highlight how important federal food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is to the people of Louisiana while so many of the state’s residents struggle to keep food on the table and the lights on in the house.

 

EITC crucial to cutting poverty
When the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual poverty numbers, the news wasn’t good for Louisiana. The state had the second highest poverty rate in the nation, edging out Mississippi by 0.1 percentage point. This low rate is attributable, in part, to the state’s lack of a minimum wage above the federal minimum. There doesn’t seem to be any momentum in the state legislature to raise this poverty wage, but there was progress in the most effective tool to fight against stagnant wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit. The New York Times’ David Leonhardt  reports on the effectiveness of this crucial tax credit, and the benefits of expanding it nationwide.

New York’s program, called Paycheck Plus, not only lifted the incomes of the low-wage workers but also increased employment, by drawing people into the work force. And the effects were largest for the most vulnerable demographic groups, including the previously incarcerated, Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist and one of the researchers, told me. Katz points out that a full national expansion would probably have even larger effects, because more people would come to understand its benefits — and enter the labor force. A full expansion would affect something on the order of 15 million workers, other studies suggest, and would likely cost in the range of $30 billion to $40 billion a year — a fraction of what the Trump tax cuts cost.

 

Spending like it’s 1991
According to LSU President F. King Alexander, state aid for Louisiana’s flagship university is about the same as it was in 1991. Nearly a decade of budget cuts have reversed an 80-20 percent state/student funding split where now students account for 80 percent of the funding, with the state picking up only 20 percent. The Louisiana Board of Regents is meeting on Wednesday, and a member of the panel told Alexander that Gov. John Bel Edwards is committed to boosting state dollars for colleges and universities. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports.

“It is going to start there,” [Marty] Chabert said. “We have some hope.” Edwards, in an appearance before the board on Aug. 21, said higher education is a key priority but also said state aid for public schools tops his list for 2019. State assistance for LSU, about $130 million, has held steady for the past two years. But that followed 16 reductions over nearly 10 years, which left LSU last in the Southeastern Conference in state spending per student and next to last nationally among peer institutions. Only Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., gets less, he said. “We are on the bottom,” Alexander said.

 

Economist downplays surplus
In discussing the recent $300 million surplus identified by nonpartisan state economists, Gov. John Bel Edwards identified an improving economy as a key factor. But Legislative Fiscal Office Chief Economist Greg Albrecht takes a different view, telling the Board of Regents on Tuesday that the state’s economy was showing modest improvements, but downplaying the $300 million figure. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports.

Albrecht said while the outlook for the state is positive, some of the reasons driving the surplus don’t involve underlying economic trends. The state still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. “I don’t think I can say that this is all about income and employment growth,” the chief legislative economist said. “It’s really modest growth.” For example, he said some improved corporate collections likely stem from cuts to tax break programs that lawmakers enacted over the last several years, while another portion stems from broader economic conditions. “Corporate income and franchise tax, those are driven by the international and national economies. They have nothing to do with the state’s economy,” Albrecht said. As for the higher-than-projected personal income tax collections last year, Albrecht said those appear to mainly involve the impact from federal tax changes. But he warned if the state miscalculated in adjustments to its income tax withholding tables, that could mean higher tax refunds to people in the current budget year.

 

Number of the Day
23,400 – Number of jobs Louisiana is predicted to add in 2019, a 1.2 percent increase. (Source: Baton Rouge Advocate)