A Vanderbilt study found that 1 in 3 Tennessee families experienced food insecurity in 2021.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life” and a lack of financial resources for food at the family level.
As prices continue to rise and families struggle to keep up, EBT and SNAP programs are critical.
Signe Anderson of the Tennessee Justice Center says when attempting to register for food benefit programs, many families struggle with paperwork, long phone calls and red tape.
It's underutilized we would like more families participate in these programs because they're very valuable," said Anderson.
Here in Chattanooga, several local organizations are working to address the growing issue.
The Chattanooga Area Food Bank provides food for 20 counties and they say the area currently has 162,000 in need.
Community Engagement Director Jennifer Fritts says they've seen a 22% increase in food insecure families since 2020.
Anything that increases a family's household budget will decrease their food budget," said Fritts.
A lack of information and government red tape keeps families from the resources they need, even though Tennessee's need is greater than ever.
The Food Bank provides families with counselors to assist them in signing up for SNAP and EBT programs.