December 12, 2014
Face of Hunger in Santa Barbara County Revealed in New Feeding America Report
Published on 12.12.2014 8:08 a.m.
Over 70 percent of local households seeking food assistance from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s network have to choose between paying for food and other necessities such as utilities and transportation, according to the Hunger in America 2014 report for Santa Barbara County.
Working families countywide are making other tough trade-offs between food and housing, medicines and education opportunities. The recent study was conducted by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County in partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization. The study supports and confirms statistics collected by the Foodbank on the number of people served and amount of food distributed by the organization. The Feeding America data provides an understanding of the economic circumstances and the factors that those relying on Foodbank encounter.
Nationally, Hunger in America 2014 found that more than 46 million people turn to agencies and programs of the Feeding America network of food banks every year. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has had over a decade of partnership as a member of the Feeding America network.
The study documents household demographics and offers a snapshot of the people served by the Foodbank — their circumstances, the challenges they face and the choices they are forced to make living on extremely limited household incomes. It is also the first nationally-representative study that assesses the prevalence of past and current members of the U.S. military and adult students receiving charitable food assistance.
“In Santa Barbara County, the faces of food insecurity and hunger may not stand out from the crowd, but the poverty of working families, and the day to day trade-offs that the study brought to light are alarming,” said Erik Talkin, Foodbank’s CEO. “It’s hard to imagine facing the choice between your family going hungry or being able to pay for the transportation you need to get to your job, or the housing you need to shelter your family. No one in our community should have to face even small everyday trade-offs, like our neighbors who must feed expired or watered down food to their families or else go hungry. As we approach the holidays, these are shocking findings but ones that strengthen our resolve to help our neighbors move from hunger to health which improves our community in far-reaching ways.”
“The Hunger in America 2014 findings demonstrate the urgent need for all of us to address hunger in our communities,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “This data provides a factual basis for decisions about how we as a nation approach hunger relief and protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
Key statistics from the report include:
Widespread Use of Food Assistance
» The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County last year, served 140,575 people — over 25 percent of the local population, including 49,729 children (0-17 years old) and 21,750 seniors (60 years or older).
» A full 35 percent of Foodbank participants are children under age 18.
» Among all clients, 3 percent are black/African American, 65 percent percent are Latino and 38 percent are white.
» 17 percent of households include someone who is a veteran or who has ever served in the military, and 39 percent of those households include someone who is currently serving in the military.
» The Foodbank distributed 9.3 million pounds of food (over 50 percent was fresh produce), through its nine direct-to-client programs for children, families and seniors at 100 sites countywide, and through its network of over 330 member nonprofit partners.
» 80 percent of Foodbank’s nonprofit partners rely on Foodbank for food and other services (e.g. capacity building, CalFresh/SNAP training).
» Last year, 600 volunteers contributed over 20,146 hours of their valuable time and service to make Foodbank’s services possible.
Making Tough Choices and Trade-Offs to Keep Food on the Table
Following are the choices client households reported making in the past 12 months:
» An estimated 71 percent of households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months.
» These trade-offs included: eating food past its expiration date, purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food because they could not afford healthier options, growing food in a garden, pawning or selling personal property, and watering down food or drinks.
» 70 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities.
» 74 percent report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation.
» 52 percent of households chose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage at least once in the past 12 months.
» An estimated 38 percent of client households currently receive SNAP benefits, while an estimated 35 percent of client households neither currently receive SNAP nor have ever applied for SNAP benefits.
Clients Struggling with Health Issues
» 60 percent of households reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care at least once in the past 12 months.
» 21 percent of households include a member with diabetes.
» 49 percent of households have a member with high blood pressure.
Low Wages, Underemployment and Unemployment Driving Need
» 64 percent of client households have annual incomes under $10,000
» An estimated 55 percent of households have a household member who had worked for pay in the past year.
» In 65 percent of client households the most-employed person from the past 12 months is currently out of work.
» An estimated 87 percent of households reside in non-temporary housing, such as a house or an apartment. An estimated 20 percent of respondents have experienced a foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
» 4,425, or 3 percent of families are homeless.
Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. Nationally, confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained data collectors, majority of whom were volunteers. The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.