First ever report finds Indiana Emergency Food Distribution serves 694,500 Hoosiers annually; Nearly 296,000 children and 38,000 seniors in need

A landmark study released in February 2010 by Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc. and Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, reports that more than 694,500 people, including 295,857 children, receive emergency food each year through the 10 member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc.

Hunger in America 2010: Indiana State Report  is the first statewide hunger study ever and the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance. The number of children and adults in need of food as a result of experiencing food insecurity has significantly increased.

Statewide, more than 36 percent of client households are experiencing “very low food security”, formerly termed “hunger” in federal statistical reports.  This means that one or more household members experience reductions in food intake or disruptions in eating patterns due to a lack of adequate resources for food.

An estimated 117,900 Hoosiers receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other agency served by the member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc.

What is most distressing in the report is that clients regularly must choose between food and another necessity, or may not eat at all from time to time.

“In the 12 months prior to the client surveys, 46 percent indicated they had to choose at least once between paying for food or paying utility bills, 36 percent chose between paying for food or paying for medication or medical care, and 42 percent chose between buying food and paying the rent or mortgage,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc.

“What is only more disheartening is that 13 percent of those surveyed reported that their children were hungry at least once in the last year because the family couldn’t afford more food.”

Nationally, more than one in three client households are experiencing very low food security—or hunger—a 54 percent increase in the number of households compared to four years ago.  An estimated 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other agency served by one of Feeding America’s more than 200 food banks, including the 10 member food banks of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, Inc. This is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.

The methodology incorporated into the 2010 study includes data collected from February through June, 2009.  The food banks serving Indiana conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,711 people seeking emergency food at food pantries, soup kitchens and other emergency feeding programs, as well as interviews with more than 1,115 agencies that provide food assistance.

Nationally, Feeding America collected quantitative and qualitative feedback from 61,000 face-to-face in-depth interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance and more than 37,000 agency surveys, making this study the largest, most-comprehensive ever conducted on domestic hunger.

In 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that an estimated 49 million people, including 17 million children, are at risk of hunger in this country.  Hunger in America 2010 reinforces the dramatically increasing need for food assistance in the United States.

Among the other key findings in the Indiana State Report:

  • 16 percent of client households with seniors 65 or older have very low food security.
  • 25 percent of adults in client households are working either full-time or part-time, and 33 percent of clients reported a job as the household’s main source of income.
  • 2 percent of all households surveyed received government welfare assistance (TANF or general assistance) in the month prior to the survey.  4 percent were homeless at the time of the survey.
  • 64 percent of clients were non-Hispanic white clients; 30 percent of clients were non-Hispanic black clients; 8 percent of clients were Latino or Hispanic.
  • 24 percent of clients reported that they or someone in their household do not have access to health insurance.
  • 57 percent of clients had unpaid medical or hospital bills.
  • 37 percent of client households report receiving SNAP benefits.

The full national report is available on Feeding America’s web site here.