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How many people are hungry in Petaluma?

This is one of the most frequent questions that I get asked.  

It would be great to have a simple answer, but alas, there’s no way of knowing for sure.  But even though a concrete number isn’t available, there are some things that we do know

  • We know that one in three children attending Petaluma City Schools is now enrolled in the federal meal assistance program (which means that their families do not earn enough to put healthy food on the table on a daily basis.)
  • We know that the number of students enrolled in the federal meal assistance program has increased by 50% in just the last four years (from 2004-2008). 
  • We know that more and more elderly people in Petaluma are lining up at free food pantries each week, just to get enough food to make it through the week. 
  • We know that it takes a family of four living in Sonoma County (two adults plus two school age children) a minimum of $52,000 a year to make ends meet in Sonoma County.*  (It actually takes even more that this in Petaluma.) 
  • We know that 30% of families living in Petaluma earn less than $50,000 a year. 
  • We know that the price of food generally has increased more than 15% in Sonoma County over the past five years, and that the price of healthy food has gone up even further.   This means that more and more families are forced to feed their children the least healthy food available (fast foods and foods high in “empty” calories, sugar, etc.)

These aren’t just opinions–these are facts. 

So, although we can’t roll out a nice neat number to quantify the folks living in Petaluma who are hungry, we know enough to know that its far too many (how many is too many, anyway?). 

*These figures have been establishd by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development (ICCED), a national research, consulting, and legal organization dedicated to building economic health in vulnerable communities.  To learn more, and for a brief explanation about the The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard, and how it relates to the government’s federal poverty level, click here.

Topics: Food, People & the Planet, Our Food System


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