Hunger in America

Hunger in America 2014

This study by the Vermont Foodbank and Feeding America shows that 1 in 4 people, or an estimated 153,000 people, in Vermont turn to food shelves and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. This includes 33,900 children and 26,010 seniors.


Click here to download the Executive Summary of Hunger in America for Vermont.  Click here to download the full report.  For more information, contact Judy Stermer at or 802-477-4108. 


The Hunger in America 2014 local findings show that 18,700 people are served each week by programs supported through the Vermont Foodbank. Accounting for multiple program visits, clients turned to the Vermont Foodbank’s network partners 1.2 million times over the course of the year. This means clients are visiting the Foodbank’s network programs an average of 8.3 times a year.


Nationally, Hunger in America 2014 found that more than 46 million people turn to agencies and programs of the Feeding America network of food banks every year. The Vermont Foodbank has been a member of the Feeding America network since 1994.


The study documents household demographics and offers a snapshot of the people served by the Vermont Foodbank – their circumstances, the challenges they face and the choices they are forced to make living on extremely limited household incomes. It is also the first nationally-representative study that assesses the prevalence of past and current members of the U.S. Military* and adult students receiving charitable food assistance.


“The results of this study show us that the face of hunger is one we might recognize,” said John Sayles.  “Many of our neighbors who are seeking food assistance have jobs, raise families, work toward education and struggle with health problems, like all of us. Too often, our clients also have to make difficult trade-offs to get enough food for their families. As we look ahead to Hunger Action Month this September, it is important to remember the critical work the Foodbank does every day, and how much more we can do together to solve hunger in Vermont.”


“The Hunger in America 2014 findings demonstrate the urgent need for all of us to address hunger in our communities,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “This data provides a factual basis for decisions about how we as a nation approach hunger relief and protect our most vulnerable citizens.”


Key statistics from Hunger in America 2014 include:


Widespread use of food assistance

  • The Vermont Foodbank serves 153,000 people annually, including 33,900 children.
  • 7.8% percent of adult clients are students.
  • 18 percent of households include someone who is a veteran or who has ever served in the military.
  • 35.8 percent of the Foodbank’s network partners employ no paid staff/are operated exclusively by volunteers.


Clients struggling with health issues

  • 71.8 percent of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food because they could not afford healthier options.
  • 56 percent of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
  • 23 percent of households include a member with diabetes.
  • 46 percent households have a member with high blood pressure.


Making tough choices and trade-offs to keep food on the table


Following are the choices client households reported making in the past 12 months:

  • 63 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities.
    • 21 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
    • 58 percent report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation.
      • 22 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
      • 56 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care.
        • 23 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
        • 52 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing.
          • 17 percent of these households are making the choice every month.
          • 20 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for education expenses.
            • 9 percent are making the choice every month.


            More than half (53.9%) of households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months.  The frequency of these strategies among all households include:

            • 52.6 percent report eating food past the expiration date;
            • 36.4 percent report growing food in a garden;
            • 25.3 percent report pawning or selling personal property;
            • 71.8 percent report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food;
            • 31 percent report watering down food or drinks;
            • 53.4 percent report receiving help from friends or family.


            Low wages, underemployment and unemployment driving need

            • 7.5 percent of respondents have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
            • Among all households served by the Vermont Foodbank’s network partners, 60.2 percent have at least one member who has been employed in the past year.
            • Among all households with an employed person, the person with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed part-time (85.5 percent) than full-time (14.5 percent).

            Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. Nationally, confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained volunteer data collectors.


            The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.


            The full national report is available on Feeding America’s website at Hunger in America 2014.


            Download the local reports:



            Hunger in America 2010


            The 2010 report presents information on the clients and agencies served by The Vermont Foodbank. The information is drawn from a national study, Hunger in America 2010, conducted in 2009 for Feeding America (FA) (formerly America's Second Harvest), the nation's largest organization of emergency food providers. The national study is based on completed in person interviews with more than 62,000 clients served by the FA national network, as well as on completed questionnaires from more than 37,000 FA agencies. The study summarized below focuses on emergency food providers and their clients who are supplied with food by food banks in the FA network. Emergency food programs are defined to include food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters serving short-term residents. It should be recognized that many other types of providers served by food banks are, for the most part, not described in this study, including such programs as Congregate Meals for seniors, day care facilities, and after school programs.


            For a complete copy of the Hunger in America 2010 study, please contact Judy Stermer at or call 802-477-4108.  Here are several key findings: 

            How many clients receive emergency food from the Vermont Foodbank?

            • The FA system served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc provides emergency food for as many as 86,000 people annually.
            • About 8,200 different people receive emergency food assistance in any given week.


            Who receives emergency food assistance?


            FA agencies served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc provide food for a broad cross section of households. Key characteristics include:

            • 33% of the members of households served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc are children under 18 years old (Table 5.3.2).
            • 8% of the members of households are children age 0 to 5 years (Table 5.3.2).
            • 6% of the members of households are elderly (Table 5.3.2).
            • About 87% of clients are non-Hispanic white, 8% are non-Hispanic black, 3% are Hispanic, and the rest are from other racial groups (Table 5.6.1).
            • 36% of households include at least one employed adult (Table 5.7.1).
            • 67% have incomes below the federal poverty level (Table during the previous month.
            • 12% are homeless (Table


            Many clients are food insecure with low or very low food security

            • Among all client households served by emergency food programs of The Vermont Foodbank, Inc, 77% are food insecure, according to the U.S. government's official food security scale. This includes client households who have low food security and those who have very low food security (Table 
            • 37% of the clients have very low food security (Table
            • Among households with children, 84% are food insecure and 34% are food insecure with very low food security (Table


            Many clients report having to choose between food and other necessities

            • 42% of clients served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel (Table 6.5.1). 
            • 34% had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage (Table 6.5.1).
            • 23% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care (Table 6.5.1).
            • 30% had to choose between paying for food and paying for transportation (Table 6.5.1).
            • 42% had to choose between paying for food and paying for gas for a car (Table 6.5.1).

            Do clients also receive food assistance from the government?

            • 61% of client households served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (Table 7.1.1); however, it is likely that many more are eligible (Table 7.3.2).
            • Among households with children ages 0-3 years, n.p. participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (Table 7.4.1).
            • Among households with school-age children, 66% and 63%, respectively, participate in the federal school lunch and school breakfast programs (Table 7.4.1).
            •  Among households with school-age children, 11% participate in the summer food program (Table 7.4.1).

            Many clients are in poor health

            • 25% of households served by The Vermont Foodbank, Inc report having at least one household member in poor health (Table 8.1.1).

            Most clients are satisfied with the services they receives from the Vermont Foodbank

            • 87% of adult clients said they were either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with the amount of food they received from their provider; 94% were satisfied with the quality of the food they received (Table 9.2.1).

            How larger is the Vermont Foodbank?

            • The Vermont Foodbank, Inc included approximately 252 agencies at the administration of this survey, of which 252 have responded to the agency survey. Of the responding agencies, 162 had at least one food pantry, soup kitchen, or shelter.

            What kinds of organizations operate emergency food programs of the Vermont Foodbank?

            • 40% of pantries, 30% of kitchens, and 11% of shelters are run by faith-based agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations (Table 10.6.1).
            • At the agency level, 35% of agencies with at least one pantry, kitchen, or shelter and 26% of all agencies including those with other types of programs are faith-based (Table 10.6.1).
            • Private nonprofit organizations with no religious affiliation make up a large share of other types of agencies (Table 10.6.1).

            Have agencies with emergency food providers reported changes in the number of clients seeking services?

            • Among programs that existed in 2006, 83% of pantries, 80% of kitchens, and 71% of shelters of The Vermont Foodbank, Inc reported that there had been an increase since 2006 in the number of clients who come to their emergency food program sites (Table 10.8.1).

            Where do agencies with emergency food providers obtain their food?

            • Food banks are by far the single most important source of food for agencies with emergency food providers, accounting for 71% of the food distributed by pantries, 36% of the food distributed by kitchens, and 36% of the food distributed by shelters (Table 13.1.1).
            • Other important sources of food include religious organizations, government, and direct purchases from wholesalers and retailers (Table 13.1.1).
            • 56% of pantries, 24% of kitchens, and 17% of shelters receive food from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (Table 13.1.1).


            Volunteers are extremely important to the Feeding America network

            • As many as 91% of pantries, 91% of kitchens, and 59% of shelters in The Vermont Foodbank, Inc use volunteers (Table 13.2.1).
            • Many programs rely entirely on volunteers; 63% of pantry programs and 28% of kitchens have no paid staff at all (Table 13.2.1).


            • Print
            • Text Size: A A A