FRAC | Food Hardship in America 2012 | Page 2
100 MSAs have at least one in eight (12.5 percent or more)households reporting food hardship. The worst congressionaldistrict may be in New York City, but 354 congressionaldistricts – including rural, suburban and urban districts – haverates of 12.5 percent or more.What this report shows is that the need for efforts to reducehunger is essential to every state, every MSA, and everycongressional district. Americans do not always recognizehow pervasive hunger is, or that it is a problem where theylive. In our communities it is often hidden by families that donot want to share their economic struggles. Sometimes ithides behind doors of nice houses with mortgages in defaultor the heat turned off. Sometimes it hides behind the stoicfaces of parents who skip meals to protect their children fromhunger. It goes unseen by those not looking for it. In a pollconducted in 2011 for Tyson Foods and FRAC, two-thirds of Americans rated hunger as a worse problem at the nationallevel than at their community level. But what these Gallupdata show is that Americans in every community are hungry.Fortunately, polls also demonstrate that Americans in everycommunity want the federal government to attack hungeraggressively, not reduce anti-hunger efforts. In pollsconducted for FRAC in 2012, about seven in 10 (69 percent)voters said the federal government should have a major roleto ensure that low-income families and children have the foodand nutrition they need. Seventy-two percent of voters saidthe federal government should be spending more money onsolving hunger or should continue to spend the same amount.When voters were told that Congress is considering cuttingbillions of dollars to reduce government spending, 75 percentof them told pollsters that cutting food assistance programslike the food stamp program is the wrong way to reducegovernment spending. And these attitudes cross party lines.
About This Report
This report is one of a series in which the FRAC has beenanalyzing survey data that are being collected by Gallupthrough the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (“Gallup-Healthways”) and provided to FRAC.The Gallup Healthways survey has several key, unusualcharacteristics: 1) annual estimates with quick turnaround fornational (by month), state, MSA, and congressional level foodhardship rates; 2) large sample sizes that allow estimation of food hardship at the MSA and congressional district levels;and 3) weighted data that are representative of the nation,states, MSAs, and congressional districts.Because Gallup’s partnership with Healthways is interviewingapproximately 1,000 households per day almost every day,year-round, that makes possible the depth and breadth of analysis in this report. (Further technical notes on the samplesize and methodology appear at the end of the text.)Gallup measures food hardship with the following question:
“Have there been times in the past twelve monthswhen you did not have enough money to buy foodthat you or your family needed?”
In this report we definean answer of “yes” as reflecting “food hardship.” FRAC usesthis phrase to avoid confusion with the Census Bureau/USDA study that produces annual “food insecurity” numbers, butthe concepts are comparable.This report looks at new Gallup data for 2012 and examines2012 food hardship rates (or, for smaller geographic areas,2011-2012 rates). The appendix contains charts providing thedata:
for the nation, by month and by quarter;
for all states in 2012, by rank;
for all states in 2012, listed alphabetically;
for the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas(MSAs) in 2011-2012, by rank;
for the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas(MSAs) in 2011-2012, alphabetically;
for all congressional districts, in rank order by foodhardship rate, for 2011-2012 combined; and
for all congressional districts, organizedalphabetically by state, for 2011-2012 combined.
Food Hardship in the Nation
FRAC’s analysis for the nation as a whole in 2012 shows that18.2 percent of respondents reported food hardship that year – down modestly from the late 2011 levels, but as discussedearlier, otherwise basically unchanged from late 2008 to2011.In 2008, the nation’s huge recession hit and the rate of households affirming food hardship rose from 16.1 percent inMarch to 20.3 percent in November and 19.4 percent inDecember. Since then, the national rate in any given monthhas never fallen below 17.1 percent. In other words, thenation’s food hardship rate – much too high before therecession – was made worse by the recession and the nationhas yet even to retrace that path, much less start tackling thelong-term problem. Families simply do not have adequateresources – from wages, income supports and SNAP – topurchase enough food.The official government “U-6” unemployment rate – reflectinga combination of unemployment and underemployment – wasslightly below 15 percent throughout most of 2012, down fromthe worst of the recession but still far above the 7 to10 percentrate that prevailed throughout most of the decade before therecession. At the same time, while the SNAP program is hugely