HUNGER IN AMERICA 2010 GENERAL QUESTIONS & ANSWERS How do we know Hunger in America 2010 is scientifically sound?

Hunger in America 2010 is the largest, most comprehensive study of domestic emergency food assistance ever conducted. The study provides comprehensive and statistically valid data on the national charitable response to hunger and the people served by food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in the Feeding America network. This report is based on independent research conducted on behalf of Feeding America by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR), a widely respected social policy research firm based in Princeton, New Jersey. MPR is nationally recognized as a leader in the field of human services research. Feeding America contracted with MPR to work with 185 network member participants who voluntarily agreed to collect data in their communities. All aspects of the study were overseen by an independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG was composed of noted social scientists, including demographers, economists, survey research specialists and statisticians, who reviewed the survey instruments, the analysis plan, and the final results. The TAG members’ impartiality, broad range of expertise and regular critical oversight of the project was vital to ensuring that the Hunger in America 2010 project adhered to the highest standards in survey research. How was the data collected? There are two main data sources for Hunger in America 2010: client data and agency data, both of which were collected in the late winter and spring of 2009. Both the client and agency data collection instruments mirror the questionnaires used in the 2006 Hunger Study, with a few additional questions that were developed for the 2009 data collection effort. Each of the participating food banks provided MPR with a list of all the agencies in their service area, including information on what types of emergency food programs they offer (pantry, kitchen, shelter or multi-program). Mathematica sampling statisticians then drew initial samples from the agencies where the client interviews were to take place.

In order to ensure data collection standardization across the country, MPR conducted three regional, two-day in-depth training sessions for all participating food banks. Client data was collected through face-to-face interviews with randomly selected recipients at emergency feeding sites across the country. Approximately 61,000 individuals (77.0% of eligible clients) offered to share their stories with us, including the circumstances of what led them to the pantry, kitchen or shelter at which they were interviewed. Their willingness to participate in this study makes it possible for us to better understand who seeks emergency food assistance and why. In addition, participating food banks also mailed surveys to their member agencies seeking information about the services available to low-income Americans, and the agencies' needs and stability. Approximately 50,000 surveys were mailed out and a little more than 37,000 usable agency survey responses were returned, a 74% response rate. MPR provided technical assistance with the implementation of the agency and client surveys. MPR was responsible for data analysis and the writing of the national and local reports, a process which occurred during summer and fall 2009. How big was the sampling for in Hunger in America 2010? More than 185 food banks in the Feeding America Network participated in the hunger study. Collectively, they conducted 61,000 face-to-face client interviews, and more than 37,000 agencies in the Network completed the agency survey. What is the margin of error for the national report? The data in the national report is subject to a 90 confidence interval with a +/- 1.5 percentage points. Data specifically examining kitchens and shelters (and not pantries) is subject to a margin of error due to sampling design of +/- 2.5 percentage points because of the smaller number of these programs (the majority of emergency food programs are pantries). As discussed in the full report, estimates may also be subject to other forms of error, such as non-response error and measurement error, which cannot be fully quantified in this study. Standard errors at the individual food bank level are considerably higher, due to the much smaller number of observations at this level. For example, the average standard error across the network for the annual client count is 26.6% and 16.6% for the weekly client count (the weekly client count standard error is lower because there are fewer factors involved in calculating the unduplicated count at the weekly level than at the annual level). These larger sampling errors mean that results at the individual food bank must be interpreted with careful attention to this issue. The larger standard errors at the food bank level are not uncommon for small area surveys, and are a trade-off between the amount of data that can be collected under such a detailed study design without being prohibitively expensive and overwhelming to agencies and clients.

What can the average person do to help emergency food assistance agencies serve hungry people? Become a hunger advocate, or donate food, funds and time to your local Feeding America Network food bank, food-rescue organization or the agencies they serve. To learn more, visit www.feedingamerica.org. Why is this study important? Hunger in America 2010 is the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on emergency food distribution in the United States. While the annual USDA household security report provides a snapshot of how many people are hungry and food insecure in the United States each year, this study evaluates one of the most important response mechanisms to hunger and food insecurity in the United States—the charitable food distribution Network. The data gleaned from this report will be used moving forward to support public policies, program implementation, operations and other decisions that will greatly impact the future of food security for low-income Americans. The USDA reported in November, 2009 that 49 million Americans live at risk of hunger, including 17 million children. What can be done to eradicate hunger? We can end hunger in America, but no one can do it alone. We must continue to collaborate in public-private partnerships with government officials and the charitable food distribution network to protect safety-net Federal nutrition programs and ensure that adequate, nutritious food is available through the charitable distribution network for every person who needs help. What are the short- and long-term effects of hunger on particular segments of our population, such as children and the elderly? Although there are long-term effects of hunger and malnutrition among all who suffer its devastating effects, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. As children’s brains and bodies develop, sufficient nutrition is key to developmentally appropriate growth. Research shows that children who miss meals or skip key nutrients suffer behaviorally, cognitively, and psychosocially (see, for example, Cook, J. and Jeng, K. (2009) “Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation”). The elderly, with their particular vulnerability to poverty and their decreased mobility, are also especially at risk of hunger. Research shows that adequate nutrition is vitally important to quality of life in later years. How prevalent is hunger among minority communities such as African Americans and Latinos?

Feeding America serves a diverse clientele. Racial and ethnic background information was obtained from adult clients interviewed at emergency feeding sites.1 While the proportion of adult Hispanic clients served has increased slightly since 2005 from 17% to 21%, the absolute number has increased from 1.8 million to 3 million adults (a 66% increase over 2005). The percentage of non-Hispanic African- American adults served at emergency food programs has declined slightly from 38% to 34%. Nevertheless, the overall number of adult African-American clients grew from 3.9 million to 4.9 million (a 25% increase over 2005). About 40% of our adult client population is non-Hispanic white, which grew from 4.1 million adult clients in 2005 to 5.8 million in 2009. When compared to the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. population, it is clear that AfricanAmerican and Hispanic clients are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. 2 Among other adult clients of the Feeding America network, 1% are Asian; 4% are American Indian or Alaskan Native; 1% are Hawaiian Native or other Pacific Islander; and 3% identified themselves as “Other.” TOUGH QUESTIONS & SUGGESTED ANSWERS Are Hunger in America 2006 and Hunger in America 2010 comparable? The survey instruments and data collection methods were very comparable across both studies. A few questions were added to the 2010 questionnaire but overall, the study methodology was largely the same. Because of the smaller number of observations at the food bank level, and the resulting larger standard errors, comparisons across years at the local report level should be made with careful attention to this issue. If your food bank has increased the number of pounds distributed by X percent since 2006, why hasn’t the number of people you are serving increased more? Pounds and meals cannot be converted into unduplicated numbers of people served. Pounds data typically includes food distributed to non-emergency food programs, such as Kids’ Cafes, Backpack programs and senior congregate meals. These non-emergency programs are not included in the Hunger in America 2010 study. In addition, the duplication of clients served cannot be separated in an analysis of pounds distributed, because the frequency of client use cannot be untangled.

Why isn’t every food bank releasing their local data? There are various reasons for these circumstances, including the following:
1

Racial and ethnic data was not obtained for all household members; therefore these numbers do not reflect Feeding America’s total client base . 2 The U.S. Census Bureau reports from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey estimates that 74% of the U.S. population are white alone, 12% are black alone and 13% are Hispanic (of any race). Note that the Hunger Study analysis places races into mutually exclusive categories while the Census Bureau allows the respondent to check multiple racial characteristics.

o Some food banks are choosing to hold the data to release at a later time to tie in with fundraising campaigns or existing events. o Food banks are organizing for a statewide release and need more time for planning their events and logistics. In few cases, the data are still undergoing a final analysis. Hunger in America local reports are one important source of data for food banks, but there may be other compelling data about the local environment, such as administrative data provided by agencies, that should be taken into account when evaluating the total picture of food insecurity and emergency food services in a given service area. Food banks may be analyzing the survey results further to ascertain how these inform their understanding of other data in their area or to determine how certain parameters may be affected by fluctuations due to sampling error.

Food Bank XX told me that they are not releasing their data because it does not appear to be accurate and/or contradicts other local studies and research. This data set gives an accurate snapshot of hunger in America today. We are aware that a handful of our food banks have concerns about their data. In such instances they are given the opportunity to continue working with the research firm to correct any possible anomalies in the data and to evaluate how their survey results triangulate with other data about their local environment. While a large sample takes care of much of the concern about sampling error at the national level, at the local level, there may be greater fluctuations due to sampling error because of the smaller number of observations. This is a common problem in survey research. For example, the USDA does not release food security data at a level of analysis lower than the state, and relies on three-year rolling averages at the state level to help ameliorate the fluctuations that can occur with smaller sample sizes. In Hunger in America 2010, statistical techniques for stabilizing local estimates were used, including small area estimation and trimming of outliers. These minimize anomalous results but occasionally, some local data may still appear to be influenced by unexplained error that seems counter to other available information about the environment. Some food banks are telling me that their 2006 data was flawed and they are only now realizing it. Was it flawed? We believe Hunger in America 2006 and Hunger in America 2010 are among the most scientifically sound research studies of their kind. Improvements in the methodology of this study have enabled us to describe the problem of hunger in America with even more precision than we did in 2006. Because of those improvements, some markets are seeing what appears to be a data anomaly resulting in data that is difficult to compare. What is most important is that the methodology and analysis plan have seen many improvements since 2006 while maintaining a high level of comparability between the studies. Even with a sophisticated sampling design, random fluctuations can occur, particularly with

smaller sample sizes such as those in food bank service areas. We encourage food banks to use the Hunger Study as one source of data in assessing their overall environment and to consider how this data triangulates or contrasts with other information they may receive from agencies. How can the study be improved? Every expert who has been involved with or has reviewed the study agrees that it a highly reliable tool for measuring hunger in America. Of course, there will always be ways to fine tune the instrument, and we will continue to make such improvements in the coming years as they become available and necessary. Instead of having various studies, why can’t the resources be combined? The Feeding America study differs greatly from other similar research. The largest example is the fact that our study measures both client and agency experiences. Other studies, like the USDA’s Household Food Security studies, only conduct interviews at the household level and do not collect agency data or interview individuals at the point of receiving emergency food assistance. The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual homelessness and hunger study only collects data from providers and is limited to a select number of cities. Why are so many agencies faith-based? Do you favor faith-based organizations? Many churches and faith-based organizations were pioneers in developing food pantries, soup kitchens and overnight shelters long before Feeding America existed. When the Feeding America Network began development over 30 years ago, the agency infrastructure already in place was largely faith-based. As a result, we have maximized our effectiveness in distributing food through these existing resources. As long as the agencies receiving food from our food bank promise to serve all people regardless of religious affiliation and without proselytizing, we are happy to supply them with the resources they need. The numbers seem to indicate that your agencies are giving food to people who are not hungry or at risk of hunger. Are people getting food who should not be? Our study found that 76 percent of all client households served are "food insecure" according to the federal government's measure of food insecurity or risk of hunger. In addition, 79 percent of client households with children are food insecure. Some individuals who are experiencing financial hardship may seek our services before they become food insecure as a way of coping with their situation. Some individuals may not self-identify as food insecure because the services they seek at food pantries, kitchens or shelters are one of the strategies they use to maintain food security in the face of hardship. The income profile reported by our client households suggest that the vast majority (96%) are living below 185% of poverty and have very limited resources. Indeed, 79% report household income below the official poverty level.

Does anyone have any idea how much it costs taxpayers to address the impacts of hunger in America, and how much money we would save if we were to put in place public policies that could reduce hunger substantially? While our study makes no attempt to quantify the social cost of hunger, we do know from other research that the social cost is high. Poor or inadequate nutrition can lead to health problems, which can lead to higher health care costs. A hungry child may have more academic and emotional problems, which can affect that child’s performance and therefore, future potential. Hunger among working adults can lead to decreased productivity.

Can you describe several scenarios that demonstrate the circumstances many people find themselves in when they are food insecure (i.e. the factors that thrust them into this situation and the steps they take to address their needs)? Our research shows that far too many of our clients are forced to make difficult decisions between food and other necessities, such as housing, utilities, and medical care. While a little more than one-third of our clients have an adult working in their household, few earn a living wage. Many others rely on Social Security as an important source of income and are still unable to make ends meet. Additionally, we know that many of our clients lack access to adequate health care and live without health insurance. Too many of our clients are perched on the precipice of disaster due to these and other circumstances, so one emergency can thrust them into an even more vulnerable position, including an illness, sudden unemployment, or an unexpected bill. Your study shows that more than 37 million people are served by the Feeding America network, which does not represent every emergency food assistance agency in the country. What percentage of the entire food assistance system does the Feeding America Network represent, and do you have any estimate of how many more people might be seeking food assistance from the other agencies? According to USDA estimates, approximately 80 percent of all food banks in the country are part of the Feeding America Network (USDA, 2002). Although we represent the majority of all emergency food services, we make no claims about non-Network activity. USDA research tells us that 49 million Americans are food insecure. This new report says that Feeding America is feeding 37 million American. Does this mean 12 million people are going hungry? While this survey gives us insight into those individuals who seek emergency food services through our network, it does not tell us about those people who are not getting help from us. Some individuals may experience food insecurity for only a short period and may result to other strategies outside of the emergency food

network, such as relying on friends or family. However, it is likely that there are others who are skipping meals, reducing their food intake or surviving on an inadequate diet without getting needed help. More research is needed to understand the unmet need in our country. What are the impediments to their getting served, and is anyone doing anything to reach them? Feeding America and its Members make a concerted effort to conduct outreach to vulnerable citizens through outreach and public education/awareness campaigns. Many of our food banks work hard to increase their community-wide visibility through fliers, ad campaigns, and outreach. Additionally, many food banks have mobile services, which travel from community to community to reach those who may not be willing or able to travel to receive services. Research is also critical to identifying the scope and reach of services, which is why participation in Hunger in America 2010 is invaluable to the Network participants. The study provides the same information locally as it does nationally so that member food banks can have access to comprehensive profiles of emergency food recipients, where they live, and their education and employment status. These data can help guide further analysis of their community needs.