One in four Americans is worried about having enough money to put food on the table in the next year, according to a national hunger survey by Hart Research Associates, commissioned last month by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Tyson Foods, Inc. Another key finding is that many Americans are unaware of how serious hunger is in their own communities.
The online survey was initiated as part of Tyson's "KNOW Hunger" campaign, which is focused on helping more people understand and actively address the problem of hunger in the U.S. The survey found that 24 percent of respondents indicated they are very or fairly concerned about being able to afford food at some point in the next year, while 31 percent are slightly worried.
The survey, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted on attitudes and perceptions of hunger, also revealed that many Americans may be underestimating the seriousness of hunger in their own community. Two-thirds of the people surveyed rated hunger as a more serious problem nationally than in their own community. Yet according to a report published in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service, 14.7 percent of American households are food insecure at least some time during the year, the highest recorded levels since 1995, when the first national food security survey was conducted.
While more than one third of those surveyed indicated they have a direct connection to hunger, 59 percent of respondents were surprised to learn the parents of hungry children in the U.S. typically have full-time jobs. A majority also assumed hunger is concentrated in urban areas, however, according to USDA, hunger is slightly higher among rural households than the national average.
"The research shows that the vast majority of Americans believe that hunger is a problem for the country, and it also shows they are committed to the belief that no one should go hungry," said Jim Weill, FRAC president. "No community is free from hunger, but the survey demonstrates very broad and deep support for efforts from both the public and private sectors to implementing solutions to this continuing challenge for our nation."
"As we've become involved in hunger relief over the past ten years, engaging our employees, customers and communities, we've seen evidence of what this survey confirms," said John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods. "People do think hunger is a serious issue. They're willing to become involved. But they also need to be shown how it directly impacts their own communities. We believe creating more awareness creates more involvement."
"The survey confirms what we see every day," said Lynn Brantley, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank. "Hunger affects more than the homeless. It also impacts people who are employed but simply don't make enough to consistently feed themselves or their family. While we provide many different kinds of foods to the agencies we serve, meat and poultry are typically among the most requested, but least available, foods."
Tyson also released a video today of testimonials from well-known Americans who have experienced hunger. "I know for us there were plenty of times when I didn't go to bed with a full stomach and we didn't know how malnourished we were," said Spencer Tillman, a network sports commentator and former professional football player who grew up in Oklahoma. Tillman, TV chef and author Sandra Lee, and president and CEO of the Arkansas Rice Depot food bank Laura Rhea provided comments for the KNOW Hunger campaign. To see video of their stories go to http://www.tysonfoods.com/Media-Room.aspx.
Key survey findings
Other key survey findings include:
* 91 percent of Americans are committed to the principle that no one should go hungry in the U.S.
* 89 percent believe hunger impacts the physical development of infants/toddlers.
* 53 percent believe that children often eat cheap, unhealthy foods so families can pay rent.
* 51 percent believe that seniors often have to choose between paying for medical prescriptions or food.
* 54 percent of Americans say more should be spent to address hunger compared to other problems.
* 73 percent see a major hunger relief role for the federal government.
* 80 percent see a major role for local organizations/leaders.
For more information on the survey, go to http://www.tysonhungerrelief.com/media-resources.