FORT MYERS, Fla. - Families across the country struggle every day to simply put food on the table. A new study finds Florida to be one of highest-ranked states when it comes to food hardship.
According to that study, done by Food Research and Action Center, nearly one out of every three Florida households with children reported not having enough money to buy food.
"They went out of business and they shut their doors and I lost my job," Don Orange of Bonita Springs said.
His all too common. Except this happened to him twice.
"Losing two jobs, I went from $80,000 a year, to $30,000 a year, to nothing a year," Orange said.
He and his children depend on local organizations like the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Bonita Springs Assistance to put food on the table. "We are pretty well-stocked up on some canned goods for the kids, soups and vegetables and Spaghetti-os," Orange said looking through his cupboards.
From foreclosures to unemployment, Southwest Florida was hit hard by the economic downturn. According to the Food Hardship in America 2010 analysis, the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area ties for 20th in the nation when it comes to households with children that trouble affording food. Statewise, Florida ranks 4th.
"Study after study shows, if kids don't eat, they don't grow, they don't learn, they don't socialize, they don't thrive, so it is really important that kids get enough to eat," Harry Chapin Food Bank Executive Director Al Brislane said.
40% of the clients served at Harry Chapin are children. With Congress looking to cut spending by $917 billion, and find a $1.5 trillion more to cut, assistance organizations hope these numbers will be heard in Washington.
"It really does worry us, and I think we all understand that we need to make some tough choices, and I just hope they are not made on the backs of people in need," Brislane said.
Despite all of his setbacks, Orange has plenty of hope for the future.
"I feel very blessed to get what I've got," Orange said.
We asked Sen. Bill Nelson and Congressman Connie Mack for their thoughts on the hunger crisis and looming cuts.
Nelson said: "Folks everywhere are facing higher food costs, medical bills, energy prices, you name it. And many people in Florida are on the verge of losing their homes or have lost them already. That's what's so puzzling about the fight in Congress over budget priorities. Why would anyone want to take even more away from the poor and middle class?"
Mack responded: "Hard working Americans are suffering with an unemployment rate over 9%, and this trend will not turn around until the federal government gets its fiscal house in order and creates an environment which fosters job creation and employment."