Who Is Accessing Charitable Food in America?

Who Is Accessing Charitable Food in America?

According to a December 2018 survey by the Urban Institute, one in ten U.S. adults (10.3 percent) between the ages of 18 and 64 and more than one in five (21.6 percent) of those with household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level said they or someone in their family had relied on food pantries or free meal programs in the past thirty days. Based on data from the Urban Institute Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, the report, Who Is Accessing Charitable Food in America? Results From the 2018 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey (17 pages, PDF), found that African Americans (16.1 percent), Latinx (14.5 percent), single parents (17.7 percent), Americans without a high school diploma (24.1 percent), and renters (15.3 percent) were more likely to report utilizing charitable food services, as were people who were unemployed (23.1 percent) or out of the labor force (16.1 percent), especially those who could not work due to health problems or a disability (26 percent). Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the survey also found that nearly two out of three respondents who received free groceries or meals reported experiencing material hardships beyond food insecurity, such as difficulty paying for housing, utilities, and/or medical bills. In addition, 54.6 percent of those who relied on charitable food services also received federal nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and/or free or reduced-price school meals, highlighting the inadequacy of SNAP benefits alone. Indeed, in 99 percent of U.S. counties in 2015, the maximum SNAP benefit per meal did not cover the cost of a low-income meal.

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