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Announcing Food Assistance and Hunger in the Heartland 2021

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By , June 1st, 2022 9:10am

Food Banks and Pantries Play Critical Role in Feeding Families and Seniors
New hunger study shows neighbors face tough choices to make ends meet

Wichita, KS – Kansas Food Bank and its network of nonprofit pantry partner agencies provide food assistance to someone in need more than 945,000 times each year. That’s one of the findings of a new hunger study released today. Food Assistance and Hunger in the Heartland 2021 – Report for the Kansas Food Bank shows 47 percent of food-insecure neighbors served by Kansas Food Bank’s network in 85 counties get more than half of their monthly food from a food pantry.

The study, conducted by the University of Missouri’s Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security in conjunction with Kansas Food Bank and many of its pantries, is an unprecedented look at those who face food insecurity and the pantries who serve them. It examines the impacts of hunger and the difficult choices many people face to make ends meet.

The study, conducted in the summer of 2021, shows 73,000 different people receive food assistance each month from the food pantries and mobile food distributions in Kansas Food Bank’s network. The study does not measure those served by Kansas Food Bank’s network of congregate meal sites and shelters, senior box programs or summer and weekend (Food 4 Kids) feeding programs for children.

“Many families and seniors impacted by the pandemic are still struggling to get back on their feet” said Kansas Food Bank President and CEO Brian Walker. “Inflation, food shortages, and rising food and transportation costs this year have made those challenges even more difficult for families and individuals facing hunger.”

Over half of the households served make less than $15,000 a year forcing them to make tough choices. Forty-eight percent of households have had to choose between paying for food or utilities, 39 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care, and 33 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for housing.

Households cope with food insecurity in a variety of ways. Sixty percent report buying the cheapest food available regardless of its nutritional value. Thirty-nine percent have eaten food past its expiration date, 25 percent pawned or sold personal items, and 16 percent have watered down food or drinks.

“This report gives us some insight into who our food insecure neighbors are and what they go through just to put food on the table” said Kansas Food Bank President & CEO Brian Walker. “It lets us know that food insecurity is all around us, children, families, seniors, veterans, college students. The food bank services and network agencies are vital to so many in the community to fill those times when food is scarce.”

Households relying on Kansas Food Bank’s pantry network for food often face challenges related to their health and well-being. Sixty-two percent have at least one person with high blood pressure, and 43 percent reported at least one person with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Nearly half of households served have at least one member without any kind of health insurance.

“No one should ever go hungry. This report will help us to ensure our food insecure neighbors have the nutritious food they need” said Walker. “Having nutritious food is the first step in creating a healthier community.”

Among key findings in the Kansas Food Bank report:

  • 45 percent of households reported having at least one child under the age of 18
  • 37 percent of households reported having at least one adult over the age of 65
  • 49 percent of the households include at least one adult who worked during the last 12 months
  • 79 percent of neighbors have attained a high school degree or general equivalency diploma (GED)
  • In 14 percent of households, at least one member has served in the military
  • Only 41 percent of households served receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps). But, 82 percent of those served have incomes making them eligible for SNAP
  • Kansas Food Bank provides 62 percent of the food distributed by the pantry agencies in its network

A summary of the findings is available on the Hunger Stats page here on our website.