Fact of the Week: 1 in 7 Americans Rely on Food Pantries


August 27, 2014

More than 46 million Americans, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors, rely on food pantries and meal programs to feed themselves and their families, according to a study released last week by Feeding America. That’s 1 in 7 people in the U.S.
Hunger in America, the study produced every four years, gives startling statistics about the state of food insecurity in the U.S. and gives a snapshot of those who struggle to have enough to eat. Included in the report’s findings:

    • 39% of client households have a child under age 18, while one in three has a senior over age 60 in the house.
    • 1 in 10 adult clients is a student – 2 million are full-time students, 1 million are part-time students.
    • 72% of households served live at or below the poverty line. The median household income was just $9,175 a year – less than half the federal poverty level for a family of three.
    • The statistics are worse for people of color – 1 in 4 Black people in America and 1 in 6 Latinos in America rely on food pantries and meal programs.

The vast majority of clients regularly had to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited money – often choosing between being able to afford food and utilities, transportation, medical care, and housing.HIA2014TradeOffs_transp

The report also notes that more than half of client households report at least one employed person at some point in the past year, and that among households with an employed person, the individual with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed part-time than full-time. For more information on the 7.5 million part-time American workers who are still looking for full-time jobs, see our previous Fact of the Week.

Feeding America says this year’s report is the largest and most comprehensive study of people seeking food assistance in the U.S, compiling results from more than 60,000 client surveys and 32,000 surveys completed by their network of of food banks, food pantries, meal service programs and partner agencies.

As noted by the Huffington Post, just over half of the households in the report receive monthly food stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Twenty-four percent of households with children receive benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Unfortunately for these households, both of these programs have seen cuts in recent years. The farm bill that was enacted in February of this year cut $8.6 billion from SNAP funding, which resulted in  850,000 households losing about $90 per month in food assistance. CHN’s research shows that funding for WIC has shrunk nearly 15 percent from FY2010 to FY2014, and many other nutrition programs have been cut as well.

Such shortsighted cuts like these, along with policies that promote income inequality, will only continue to hurt those who need help the most. And if that happens, reports like Hunger In America will continue to show the need for additional assistance for our most vulnerable neighbors rise.

Fact of the Week
Food and Nutrition
food insecure
food pantries