WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A new study shows the amount of Florida children living in poverty is growing.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book, 24 percent of children in the Sunshine State were found to be living below the poverty level in 2013, the most-recent year that figures were studied.
That’s more than the national average of 22 percent of kids. Florida's number of poverty-stricken children in 2013 had jumped six percent since 2008.
According to Feeding South Florida, Palm Beach County is seeing growth in children living with food insecurity while other counties are seeing a decrease. The food bank says 63,660 children in Palm Beach County are food insecure, meaning they don't always know where their next meal will come from.
Feeding South Florida’s president and CEO, Paco Velez blames part of the problem on not enough low-income families in Palm Beach County using SNAP benefits, resulting in more people seeking out emergency food programs. Velez says a high number of low-wage jobs mixed with expensive rent also contributes to the county's problem.
"When you pay more than 50 percent on rent that really leaves a lot less money for you to spend on transportation, on food, on medication, things like that," Velez says.
The problem is putting a strain on Feeding South Florida and smaller food pantries. Velez says warehouse shelves empty faster and other programs are busier as well.
"Children are not eating either supper or not eating over the weekend, so we're seeing a huge increase in the demand for after school meals as well as summer meals," Velez says.
According to Feeding South Florida, food banks especially struggle to make it during the summer months. Children aren't receiving free or reduced breakfast or lunch at school, leading families to rely on food pantries to supplement those meals.