Why the US Census is Important to Food Banks — and Why We Need to Protect it
By Kate Cheyne, Research Manager
Every year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases data that offers a glimpse into how American households are changing, including those in Alameda County. For non-profits, policy makers, and advocates working to end food insecurity and hunger, it’s our most comprehensive source of information on poverty rates, household incomes, cost of living, health insurance, nutrition assistance participation, and more.
However, the upcoming 2020 census is under threat of being underfunded. And according to multiple reports, it is behind schedule, and many factors are putting it at risk for not getting an accurate count. We must ensure that the census is funded adequately, upholds its obligation to protect the privacy of respondents, and is conducted with rigor.
How non-profits use the census
The primary purpose of the yearly ACS is to portray the social, housing, economic, and demographic characteristics of the U.S. population. The data in the map below were obtained from the ACS, and show median household incomes across Alameda County. In addition to poverty rates, these data show us a point-in-time visualization of the county. But they also show us how the county is changing over time with year-over-year comparisons. This helps us learn where our services need to be, and what we need to adjust to reach more people who might be food insecure.
In addition to painting an overall picture of trends in our region, ACS data helps non-profits like ours understand the larger economic forces at play in our communities, which impact individuals and families at risk of food insecurity.