Feeding America’s research brief, Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple, details the frequency of clients’ visits to food pantries. Drawing on data from Feeding America’s quadrennial Hunger in America 2010 study, findings from this analysis suggest that families are not only visiting pantries to meet temporary, acute food needs – instead, for the majority of people seeking food assistance, pantries are now a part of households’ long term strategies to supplement monthly shortfalls in food. Results of these analyses suggest that families no longer visit “emergency food” sources for temporary relief, but rely on food pantries as a supplemental food source. Seniors, who so often are limited by fixed or no incomes, are shown to be among the most consistent pantry clients.
The analysis for this study involved the use of a pantry frequency question asked of clients surveyed for Hunger in America 2010. The Hunger in America study series is the largest study of domestic charitable food assistance, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on the emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves. Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple draws on data from more than 61,000 client interviews that were completed for Hunger in America 2010.
- Emergency vs. Long-Term Strategy: Emergency food from pantries is no longer being used simply to meet temporary acute food needs. A majority of the clients being served by the Feeding America network (54%) have visited a food pantry in six or more months during the prior year.
- Seniors: We find that seniors are disproportionately represented among clients visiting pantries in six or more months during the prior year. Over half (56%) of elderly clients aged 65+ are recurrent clients, meaning they have used a pantry every month within the prior year.
- Households that are food secure are more likely to have recurrent clients – those that have used a pantry every month within the prior year – than other types of households. Although we cannot state this relationship to be causal in nature, it is preliminary evidence that food pantry use over longer durations may lower the likelihood of food insecurity.