Number of Americans Seeking Emergency Food Assistance Up 46 Percent Since 2006, Report Finds

Number of Americans Seeking Emergency Food Assistance Up 46 Percent Since 2006, Report Finds

One in eight Americans — or more than 37 million people, including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors — receive emergency food each year through the nation's network of foodbanks and the agencies they serve, a new report from Feeding America finds. The number represents an increase of 46 percent since 2006.

Based on data collected by Mathematica Policy Research, including a survey of some 37,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding programs, the report, Hunger in America 2010 (431 pages, PDF), found that approximately 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance each week from agencies served by one of Feeding America's more than 200 foodbanks — a 27 percent increase since 2006, when the organization last released such a study. The survey also found that more than one in three client households is experiencing very low food security — a jump of 54 percent since 2006.

Over that period, the report found significant increases in the number of children (50 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and African Americans (26 percent) being served annually by emergency food programs; the number of households with seniors facing very low food security (64 percent); and the number of households that have to choose between paying for food or their rent or mortgage (39 percent), their utilities or heating fuel (46 percent), or their medical bills (34 percent).

"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 Feeding America president and CEO Vicki Escarra. "Hunger in America 2010 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 time."