Study Reveals Unprecedented Number of Americans Seeking Food
3 February 2010 at 10:35 am
A landmark study from Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organisation, reports that more than 37 million people – one in eight Americans — including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors — receive emergency food each year through the nation’s network of food banks and other agencies.
The findings represent a staggering 46 percent increase since the organisation’s previously released study in 2006.
Hunger in America 2010 is described as the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance. The number of children and adults in need of food as a result of experiencing food insecurity has significantly increased.
More than one in three client households are experiencing very low food security—or hunger—a 54 percent increase in the number of households compared to four years ago.
An estimated 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other agency served by one of Feeding America’s more than 200 food banks. This is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in 2006 report which found that 4.5 million people were served each week.
Vicki Escarra, the President and CEO of Feeding American says that clearly, the economic recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance and enrolment in federal nutrition programs.
Escarra says the Hunger in America 2010 report exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in the US don’t have enough to eat.
Many of the people served by Feeding America food banks report they are struggling with unemployment, difficult choices between food and other basic necessities along with the pressures of skyrocketing healthcare costs.
While 36 percent of households have at least one adult working, Hunger in America 2010 reports a 68 percent increase over four years ago in the number of adults seeking emergency food assistance who have been unemployed for under a year.
More than 46 percent of surveyed participants report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food; 39 percent said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food; 34 percent report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food; and 35 percent must choose between transportation and food.
Feeding America collected quantitative feedback from 61,000 face-to-face in-depth interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance and more than 37,000 agency surveys during February through June 2009, making it the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on domestic hunger. The results are based on surveys conducted at food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding programs.
This report is based on independent research conducted on behalf of Feeding America by Mathematica Policy Research, a widely respected nonpartisan social policy research firm based in Princeton, New Jersey.
Hunger in America 2010 reinforces the dramatically increasing need for food assistance in the United States, with 70 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens and 73 percent of emergency shelters reporting that they are facing one or more problems that threaten their ability to continue operating. Problems relating to funds and food supplies were the two most commonly cited threats.
Among other key comparative findings in the report:
- 50 percent increase in the number of children served annually.
- 66 percent increase in the number of Hispanics served annually.
- 26 percent increase in the number of African-Americans served annually.
- 64 percent increase in the number of households with seniors facing very low food security—or hunger.
- 59 percent increase in the number of households reporting they have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and food.
According to Food Bank, Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, two million Australian rely on food relief every year and half of them are children. Food Bank distributes food to help feed 60,000 people a day in Australia.
A summary of the findings and the full report are available on Feeding America’s web site at www.feedingamerica.org/hungerstudy.