One in seven Americans, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, according to a new study released today by Feeding America, the nation’s largest provider of charitable food assistance to low-income Americans.
Hunger in America 2014 is the largest and most comprehensive study of people seeking food assistance in the United States ever conducted. More than 60,000 people confidentially answered questions about their personal circumstances for the study.
The study represents findings from 200 Feeding America food banks, which annually provide more than 3 billion meals to people facing hunger through 58,000 food pantries and meal service programs that serve every community in the nation.
The study documents household demographics and offers a snapshot of the people served by Feeding America food banks – their circumstances, the challenges they face and the choices they are forced to make living on extremely limited household incomes. It is also the first nationally-representative study that assesses the prevalence of past and current members of the U.S. Military* and adult students receiving charitable food assistance.
“The results from this historic study are truly alarming. Many of the people we serve struggle not only to get enough to eat, but also to keep a roof over their heads, the lights on in their homes, and to cover their healthcare and medicine costs,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “Hunger in America 2014 highlights the enormous hardships faced by the millions of low-income families who rely on the Feeding America network for help.”
Key statistics from the report include:
WIDESPREAD USE OF FOOD ASSISTANCE ACROSS THE UNITED STATES
- Feeding America serves more than 46 million people annually, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.
- Among all clients, 43 percent are white (1 in 10 white people in America), 26 percent are black (1 in 4 black people in America), and 20 percent are Latino (1 in 6 Latinos in America). (Source: US Census Bureau)
- 10 percent of adult clients are students.
- In a typical month, nearly 2 million volunteers contribute more than 8.4 million hours of their time to help provide food through Feeding America network agency programs. That’s more than 100 million hours of donated labor across the Feeding America network over the course of a year.
MILITARY SERVICE AND FOOD ASSISTANCE
- 620,000 households that seek food assistance from a Feeding America network agency each year include at least one member who is currently serving in the U.S. Military.* This represents an estimated 1 in 4 households with a member currently serving in the U.S. Military receiving food assistance from the Feeding America network.**
- 20 percent of households served by the Feeding America network include someone who is a veteran or who has ever served in the U.S. Military.
CLIENTS STRUGGLING WITH HEALTH ISSUES
- 79 percent of households surveyed report purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household.
- 66 percent of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
- 33 percent of households include a member with diabetes.
- More than half of households (58 percent) have a member with high blood pressure.
LOW WAGES, UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT MAY DRIVE NEED
- The median annual income of Feeding America clients is $9,175.
- 16 percent of respondents have experienced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
- Among all households served by the Feeding America network, 54 percent have at least one member that has been employed in the past year. In households with children, that rate rises to 71 percent.
- Among all households with an employed person, the person with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed part-time (57 percent) than full-time (43 percent).
“The Hunger in America 2014 findings demonstrate the urgent need for all of us to address hunger in our communities,” said Aiken. “This data provides a factual basis for decisions about how we as a nation approach hunger relief and protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Urban Institute. Confidential responses were collected on touchscreen tablets by more than 6,000 trained data collectors, most of whom were volunteers.
The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
Join our press call today, August 18, at 12:00 p.m. ET, here: https://engage.vevent.com/rt/feeding_america~081814. After the live event, this link will hold the archived recording. If unable to stream audio, listen via telephone by calling toll-free 877.612.2957 with conference ID 87420608.
Bob Aiken, CEO, Feeding America; and
Dr. Elaine Waxman, Vice President of Research and Nutrition, Feeding America.
* Military as defined by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and their Reserve Components.
**Source: United States Department of Defense. 2012 Demographics Report: Profile of the Military Community. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy. 2012.