More than one in four (28 percent) Americans say that in the past year they or someone they know has had to make a choice between providing food for their family or paying their bills, and one in 10 Americans say they personally went to bed hungry at least once in the past year. These and other surprising figures were revealed in The 2010 Hormel Hunger Survey, released Monday by Hormel Foods Corp.
The percentage of Americans very concerned about the number of people in the United States who do not have enough to eat rose from 46 percent in 2009 to 54 percent this year, suggesting consumers are aware of the personal toll the recession has been taking on many Americans.
"It is a tragedy that people around the world and in our country still suffer from hunger," said Julie H. Craven, vice president of corporate communications at Hormel Foods. "We hope this survey provides facts about hunger and makes clear that it is still a problem both in the United States and abroad."
In this fifth annual study on hunger, a majority (52 percent) of Americans said their ability to pay their bills has not changed in the past year. However, five times as many Americans say it has become more difficult to pay bills (38 percent) than said it has become easier (8 percent) compared to a year ago.
About nine out of 10 Americans have been forced to spend more carefully these days, including almost one in five (18 percent) who say they are struggling to pay essential bills or cannot pay those bills without borrowing. Only about one in 10 Americans say they do not have to worry much about how they spend their money.
When answering questions about fresh food options, a majority of Americans said having large grocery stores where only small stores with limited choices are currently available would have a beneficial effect on six social problems, especially reducing malnutrition (71 percent) and hunger (69 percent). Other problems that most believe would be alleviated include the cost of healthcare (58 percent), obesity (53 percent), reduced life expectancy (60 percent) and low school test scores (56 percent). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 2.3 million Americans live more than a mile from a supermarket that offers many food choices and do not have access to a vehicle to get there.
Additionally, about two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans have donated food to a food bank or other food collection charity in the past year, and a smaller majority (57 percent) have donated money to one of these organizations. Slightly less than one in four (23 percent) volunteered their time to a food bank, shelter or organization providing food for the hungry in the past year.
Despite this demonstrated commitment to eradicating hunger, a majority (61 percent) of those surveyed do not think the hunger problem in the United States will be solved in the next 20 years.
"It is disheartening to see most Americans feel the hunger problem in the U.S. will not be solved in the next 20 years," said Jean Kinsey, a professor emeritus of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, and director emeritus of The Food Industry Center. "However, Americans and U.S. companies are still working hard to end hunger despite this belief, and their commitment will help solve the problem."
The survey also uncovered attitudes toward hunger abroad. Nine out of 10 Americans agree that children should receive hunger relief first, no matter where they live. And, more than four out of five (84 percent) respondents agree that growing hunger around the world is linked to political unrest.
Survey findings also highlighted additional attitudes among Americans:
• Americans are divided on how we as a nation ensure people in this country do not go hungry. Slightly more (50 percent) believe we are unsuccessful than believe we are successful (47 percent).
• Nine out of 10 (91 percent) Americans agree that reducing the number of hungry children benefits our communities.
• More than three out of four (78 percent) Americans agree even in our free market economy, the government should ensure everyone in America has enough to eat. A majority (54 percent) strongly agree.
• More than three out of four (78 percent) Americans agree the hungry in the United States are in that position due to circumstances beyond their control rather than lack of effort.
• A majority (57 percent) of Americans say if they would qualify for food aid, they would apply to get it. More than one-third (38 percent), however, said they would not apply citing reasons such as "I do not want a government handout," "I would be embarrassed to use the benefits," and "I do not know how to apply."