Low literacy a root cause of hunger in the Permian Basin

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 5:58 PM CDT
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MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) - During Hunger Action Month, nonprofits are bringing awareness to root causes of food insecurity like poor literacy, which is widespread in the Permian Basin.

Reading may seem like an everyday necessity, but for many West Texans, it’s a struggle, said John Trischitti, executive director of the Literacy Coalition of the Permian Basin.

“The data tells us one out of three adults in the Permian Basin read below a third-grade level, which is a pretty staggering statistic,” Trischitti said. “About 157,000 people. Nearly the entire population of the City of Midland.”

That’s according to a 2022 analysis by the coalition. In Midland and Ector counties, about 26% and 36% of adults read at a second-grade reading level or less, respectively.

West Texas Food Bank CEO Libby Campbell says she’s happy the food bank can keep up with growing needs. However, a main goal is to lessen the need by tackling the underlying issues causing hunger, like poor literacy rates in the Permian Basin.

“These are causes… like [the] generational cycle of poverty and if you really want to think about shortening the lines at a food bank or a food pantry, you really need to start looking at those root causes of hunger,” Campbell said.

West Texas Food Bank has seen a growing demand for its services amid high utility bills during repeated heat waves, inflation and the aftermath of COVID. However, a struggle to read can be the reason people have to repeatedly return to the food bank.

“Somebody who has to continually come back, not because they don’t have a job, not because they’re not trying to do better, but they truly have limited resources within themselves to be able to get out of the situations they’re in,” Campbell said.

Low literacy can limit a person’s career, income and ability to choose healthy foods. An improved ability to read can enhance a person’s quality of life, but Trischitti says there’s a stigma to overcome.

“Most of us as parents will swallow our pride to make sure that my kids are fed and so you’ll go to the food bank,” Trischitti said. “You won’t necessarily do that to tell someone, ‘hey, I don’t read very well and I need help.”

Low literacy rate is so prevalent, it’s likely to encounter someone who struggles to read every day in the Permian Basin.

That’s why the coalition and West Texas Food Bank want to bring awareness to not only hunger, but the underlying issues causing it. Anyone facing low literacy is encouraged to reach out to the coalition for resources here.

CBS7 will cover hunger in the Permian Basin all month, as well as how people can help their neighbors facing food insecurity.

One way is by joining the CBS7 peanut butter brigade. If your business is interested in hosting a collection barrel, you can email peanutbutter@cbs7.com.

To donate peanut butter to the brigade, visit a barrel at any Market Street or United Supermarket, or at the locations below.

Donate in Midland:

  • Grace & Hustle
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Miss Cayce’s Wonderland
  • Advance Electrolysis
  • Texas Sun Winery
  • MeliRose Boutique

Donate in Odessa:

  • Standard Structures
  • CBS7 Studios in Music City Mall
  • Denta Dental
  • Jordan Elementary
  • MeliRose Boutique