Food-assistance agencies nationwide serve 1 million more people each week than
they did four years ago, according to a national study released Feb. 2.
The nation’s network of
food banks and related agencies provide emergency food to 37 million people —
one American in eight — including 14 million children and about 3 million
senior adults, the study revealed. That’s a 46 percent increase over the number
reported four years ago.
in America 2010 report, a comprehensive four-year study conducted by
Mathematic Policy Research for the Feeding America network, provides the first
empirical data demonstrating “an undeniable connection between the recent
economic recession and hunger,” said Jan Pruitt, president of the North Texas
Food Bank in Dallas.
“Hunger across our
nation is growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.
More than one household
in three served by charitable agencies nationwide experiences “very low food
security” — a 54 percent increase in the number of households classified that
way compared to 2006.
About 5.7 million
people receive emergency food aid each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen or
other charitable agency served by one of the more than 200 food banks
associated with the Feeding
“Clearly, the economic
recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has
driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance
and enrollment in federal nutrition programs,” said Vicki Escarra, president
and CEO of Feeding America, in a news
The report, she
continued, “exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in
our nation don’t have enough to eat. Millions (of) our clients are families
with children finding themselves in need of food assistance for the very first
Hunger in America 2010
reports a 68 percent increase over 2006 in the number of adults seeking food
assistance who have been unemployed for less than one year. Nationally, the
number of children served through the Feeding America network increased 50
percent over the same period.
The report revealed the
hard choices Americans affected by recession and unemployment face. More than
46 percent of the households served the Feeding America network reported having
to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and paying for food.
Nearly four out of 10 said they had to choose between paying rent or a mortgage
and buying food, and more than one-third said they had to choose between
transportation and food.
“It is morally
reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in
six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic
necessities,” Escarra said.
“These are choices that
no one should have to make, but particularly households with children.
Insufficient nutrition has adverse effects on the physical, behavioral and
mental health, and academic performance of children. It is critical that we
ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in America as they truly are our engine
of economic growth and future vitality.”
The study also
dispelled some common myths about people seeking food assistance. It showed
that in Texas, for instance, 84 percent of the clients of food-assistance
programs are U.S. citizens, and 43 percent of the households had at least one
Data for the Hunger in
America 2010 study was collected from February through June last year. It
involved more than 62,000 face-to-face interviews with people seeking emergency
food assistance from any of the 63,000 agencies served by a Feeding America
network food bank.
— Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.)