Hunger is not a foreign concept or a thing of the past. It is not selective or mindful of those it affects. Hunger is a pandemic that is sweeping across our nation at an increasingly high rate. There are ways to stop it, but we need action; we need dedicated people to step up and be outspoken about hunger and its affects on our nation’s people. 68% of pantry programs and 42% of soup kitchens have no paid staff and rely solely on volunteers to manage and maintain their programs. Without the support of regular, consistent volunteers, organizations that can make the most progress in addressing critical hunger needs in their neighborhoods, cannot fully realize their potential.
Feeding America is a national organization dedicated to hunger relief. Working daily with individual agencies which include food pantries, soup kitchens, and residential shelters, Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S. Their partner agencies can be found in all fifty states as well as The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Every year, Feeding America receives and allocates more than 2.6 billion pounds of grocery and food products to 61,000 agencies nationwide.
According to the Feeding America Hunger Study published earlier this year, the amount of people in need of food assistance in 2009 reached an all time high of 37 million individuals. This was a dramatic increase from the 2005 number of 25.3 million (a 46% increase). Of those 37 million, nearly 14 million are children under the age of 18 and almost 3 million are senior citizens. However, it is not just the homeless, children and seniors who suffer from hunger and food shortages. The Feeding America study separated the people in need of food assistance in to three categories:
Low Income: The majority of clients seeking emergency food assistance from Feeding America are part of households living below the federal poverty line. In fact, 74% of households served by the Network had annual incomes below the federal poverty level, or less than $17,163 a year for a household of three in 2008. The average monthly income for a household served was $940 for the previous month and the average yearly household income was $13,030 for 2008.
Resource Poor: In addition to living in poverty, recipients of emergency food typically have limited resources from which to draw when struggling with financial difficulties. Ten percent of client households are homeless. Sixty percent do not have access to a working car. Many survey respondents indicated that they have been forced to choose between food and utilities (46%); food and rent or mortgage (40%); food or medicine or medical care (34%); food or transportation (35%); and food or gasoline (36%). More than one in three emergency food recipients must choose between an everyday necessity and sufficient food.
Food Insecure: Utilizing the federal government’s measure of food security, 76% of client households served by Feeding America were “food insecure”. Since 1995, the U.S. Census Bureau and USDA Economic Research Service have collected information through the annual Current Population Survey on “food insecurity,” defined as “lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members; limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.”
Source: Feeding America: Hunger in America 2010, Executive Summary