By Christine Melendez Ashley
As the United States begins to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, there is also good news to celebrate on the hunger and poverty front.
The number of Hispanics at risk of hunger and living in poverty has fallen, according to new data.
Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of the heritage, culture, and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States, began last week. And even though Hispanics have made great contributions to the nation, many of them still suffer from hunger and poverty.
So I was apprehensive as I waited for the release of new data on hunger and poverty in the United States.
Every year since the start of the Great Recession, this data release has brought disappointing news. In 2008, hunger and poverty rates increased by at least 30 percent. And they remained high every year since.
But last week we got our first glimpse of good news. We learned that the number of Americans at risk of hunger had fallen to 42 million from 48 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The number of Hispanics at risk of hunger also fell to 10.3 million from 12.3 million.
Would a drop in the number of Americans at risk of hunger also mean that poverty rates would be lower too? We got our answer on last week.
The number of people living in poverty had indeed also fallen! Forty-three million people, including 12.1 million Hispanics, lived in poverty in 2015 compared to 46.7 million, including 13.1 million Hispanics, in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
This is encouraging news. For the first time since the start of the Great Recession, the rates of hunger and poverty for every demographic group have fallen. Two million fewer Hispanics lived at risk of hunger and 1 million fewer Hispanics lived in poverty in 2015. If this rate of decline becomes an annual trend, hunger and poverty would be effectively ended by 2030.
Yes, the number of individuals and families struggling is still too many. Rates of hunger and poverty are still not fully back to pre-recession levels, and we have our work cut out for us if we’re going to end hunger by 2030.
But this year’s data releases show us that it can happen. We can end hunger. Our country must make it a priority.
Christine Melendez Ashley is a senior domestic policy analyst at Bread for the World.