Sarasota – August 18, 2014 – A landmark study of hunger in America with a local report on emergency food-assistance in Sarasota County documents the critical role that All Faiths Food Bank and its partner agencies play in supporting struggling families in the region.
Hunger in America 2014, conducted by Feeding America and its nationwide network of food banks, including All Faiths, is the most comprehensive study of hunger-relief efforts in the country. The report is the result of two surveys, conducted through face-to-face interviews with clients and with agency partners. It shows the lingering effects of the weak economy on the need for food assistance and the related impacts on the lives of food bank clients.
As the hub of hunger relief in Sarasota and DeSoto counties, All Faiths Food Bank serves more than 51,000 people annually, according to the study. Through its work and that of nearly 100 partner agencies that were included in the survey, All Faiths provides food to families in need, offers other services to help them become self-sufficient, and educates the public about the issue of hunger and nutrition.
“What strikes me most about the findings of our local study is the desperate choices that families have to make to avoid hunger,” said Sandra Frank, CEO of All Faiths Food Bank. “The level of poverty, the instability of their lives, and the implications for their health and livelihood are appalling.”
Low wages and underemployment help drive the drive the need for food assistance. The study found that 80 percent of households make $20,000 a year or less, and more than 60 percent had at least one member who was employed in the past 12 months. Coping strategies to avoid hunger include buying the cheapest food available, regardless of health consequences, and making tough decisions like choosing to pay for food over rent, utilities, or medication.
The findings also illuminate the link between poverty and poor health for families in need. Nearly 60 percent of client households have a member with high blood pressure, and almost one-third have a member with diabetes. Well over half have medical bills to pay. “Providing food assistance helps stabilize families, keeps them in their homes, and allows them to better manage health conditions,” noted Frank.
Participation in the study was funded by Gulf Coast Community Foundation through its regional Feeding Hungry Families initiative. Because the Hunger in America 2014 study did not directly survey children or include child-only meal programs, Gulf Coast and All Faiths previously commissioned a first-of-its-kind child hunger study of Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Released earlier this year, it showed “alarming numbers” of students who were food insecure, meaning they weren’t always sure where their next meal would come from. Together, the studies show growing food and nutrition needs in the region.
“Hunger in America 2014 reinforces what All Faiths and its partners see on the front lines: more families in our community are struggling,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of Gulf Coast.
Information provided by All Faiths Food Bank’s partner agencies, which receive 72% of the food they serve from All Faiths, showed that in the past year a third of their programs did not have enough food to fully meet clients’ need. As a result, they cut back on services, staff, and hours of operation. “As a community, we must continue to invest in a system that ensures access to adequate, affordable, nutritious food for these families,” said Hansen.
Other themes emerge from the Hunger in America 2014 local study:
Hunger and food insecurity touches all ages and ethnicities. Of the 51,800 people served by All Faiths Food Bank annually:
The parallel between poverty and poor health demonstrates the “ripple effect” of food insecurity and the risks of poor nutrition:
The survey also looks at the choices and trade-offs that clients must make in order to survive:
“This report will help our community plan strategically and measure the effectiveness of our hunger-relief efforts,” said All Faiths CEO Frank. “The surveys allow us to better know our clients and work more closely with our local partner agencies. Hunger in America 2014 was a huge undertaking, and we are glad to have been able to participate thanks to the support of Gulf Coast Community Foundation and our volunteers.”
For more information about Hunger in America 2014, contact Sandra Frank, CEO, All Faiths Food Bank at 941-379-6333. For Feeding America’s full Hunger in America 2014 report, visit www.feedingamerica.org
About All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank, recently awarded a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, is a member of Feeding America and the hub of the hunger relief system in DeSoto and Sarasota Counties. Its mission is to feed those in need and educate the community about hunger and nutrition. More information about nutrition, mobile pantries, school and other programs can be found online at allfaithsfoodbank.org.
About Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Together with its donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation transforms our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, it has become the philanthropic home of more than 550 families who have established charitable funds there, and it has invested over $172 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at GulfCoastCF.org.