Nearly 50 Million Americans Battle Hunger

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Picture a hungry family in need and you might not imagine a student, an active duty military service member -- or a white American family. But that is the reality, according to "Hunger in America," a study released by the charitable food organization Feeding America. Through 200 local food banks, the nonprofit serves more than 46 million people annually, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.

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The report paints a bleak picture of our fellow citizens in need: 10% of which are adult students, 20% Latino, 26% black and 43% white. A staggering 620,000 households seeking food assistance include at least one member currently serving in the U.S. military.

"The results from this historic study are truly alarming," said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America, in a release. "Many of the people we serve struggle not only to get enough to eat, but also to keep a roof over their heads, the lights on in their homes, and to cover their healthcare and medicine costs. This data provides a factual basis for decisions about how we as a nation approach hunger relief and protect our most vulnerable citizens."

More than 60,000 people who sought food assistance were surveyed, half of which (54%) had at least one member of the household that had been employed in the past year. In households with children, the number rose to 71%. But most (57%) reported only part-time employment -- the median annual income of Feeding America clients is just $9,175.

"It's not the welfare moms that everybody imagines," Sandi Vidal, executive director of Christian HELP, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Many of the people we see have at least a high-school diploma or GED, and many of them are working but underemployed. They need better-paying jobs and more hours."

Tough choices are made by these struggling families. A large majority (79%) admitted that they bought the cheapest food available, even knowing it might not be the healthiest choice. Two-thirds of the respondents said they have had to choose between buying food and paying for medicine or medical care. One-third said their household included an individual with diabetes.

Nearly two million Feeding America volunteers contribute more than 8.4 million hours of their time each month to help provide food through 200 food banks and 58,000 food pantries and meal service programs across the nation.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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