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Hunger in Ventura County 2009
The serious current economic recession and its impact on food security in Ventura County prompted California State University, Channel Islands faculty and a food bank to launch a collaborative project. Its purpose, to assess the pattern of food insecurity and to evaluate food assistance programs, was fulfilled by a partnership between CSUCI’s sociology faculty and FOOD Share, a food bank that houses and distributes food to the hungry of Ventura County.
The partners planned the research project, designed the survey questions, trained interviewers, conducted interviews, and collected surveys. After the faculty analyzed and interpreted the results, the partners prepared to disseminate the findings. CSUCI sociology students as well as volunteers from the community and from the Ventura County Human Services Agency interviewed approximately 500 clients who were recipients of food aid, with 24 community agencies participating.
The findings were alarming. Of those interviewed, more than 60% experienced food insecurity during 2009, a majority was not receiving food stamps, and half were experiencing hunger. Those who were both food insecure and not receiving government assistance were coping by relying on nongovernmental assistance programs.
The findings were shared with the board and staff of FOOD Share and other community agencies to inform them of the current status of hunger in Ventura County and more importantly to address this urgent need. Data will be further utilized for agencies that apply for funds to support food purchases and food assistance programs.
Sociology students participating in this project learned and applied interviewing skills, and many were deeply affected by their personal experience. In realizing that hunger was not only common and widespread, but close to home, they also learned the urgency of collecting and sharing information to meet pressing local needs. A final report will be presented to the CSUCI community to raise awareness on campus as well.
Sunghee Choi, Sociology
California State University, Channel Islands
Fran McNeil & Christina Forino, FOOD Share
Key words: food security, Ventura County, Southern California, sociology