As Child Hunger Soars Across USA, National Poll Finds Nearly 4 of 10 Parents Reducing Food for Children

04.13.2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                

CONTACT:

Nicole Aber, 646-627-7741

Naber@hungerfreeamerica.org     

Child Hunger Rate Has Increased Five-Fold Since Crisis

Adults Also Struggling as Income Plummets

Leading Members of Congress Call for SNAP Increase in Response to New Polling Data

As U.S. Senate Debates Whether to Increase SNAP (Food Stamps), 12 Times More Americans Want to Increase Program Benefits than Cut Them

 

Advocates: “Wake Up Call That Charitable Food Efforts Are Insufficient”

Child hunger is soaring across America during the current health and economic crises, with 37 percent of parents nationwide cutting the size of meals or skipping meals for their children because they did not have enough money for food in the last month, according to a new study by the nonprofit organization, Hunger Free America.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2018, when the overall economy was relatively strong, seven percent of U.S. children suffered from such poverty-related food shortages. Advocates attributed this five-fold hike in child hunger to the loss of tens of millions of school meals each day coupled with a massive reduction in income for parents.

Said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, “Closed school districts nationwide have engaged in unprecedented efforts to find alternative ways to provide school meals. Food charities across the country have tried to continue their heroic work to fill in some gaps in the nation’s safety net, even though many have been forced to close because many are staffed by older Americans. But the soaring child hunger found by this study is a wake-up call that all the nation’s emergency food responses are wholly inadequate in the gargantuan scope of this crisis. We need a massive, coordinated federal, state, and local government response that dramatically expands government food safety net programs and uses National Guard units and national service participants to ramp up home meal deliveries.”

The study also found that, among adults, 24 percent skipped meals or cut portions because they lacked enough money for food. That’s about two and a half times the adult hunger rate of 2018. More than 38 percent of households said their income dropped in the last month, and large numbers of families said they are either having trouble meeting basic expenses now or are worried that they won’t be able to pay their bills if the economic and health crises continue much longer.

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said, “It is unacceptable that any child, senior or needy person should ever have to go hungry during this crisis. That is why I will continue to fight to include a benefit increase to SNAP, our main program to stave off hunger. It puts more food on hungry families’ tables – and helps our farmers in this time of need. Increasing SNAP should be a no brainer to help communities get through this health crisis.”

The study was released in the midst of a heated battle between Congressional Democrats and President Trump and Congressional Republicans over whether a new federal relief bill should include a 20-cent-per-meal increase in funding for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, as well as whether the bill should block the Trump Administration’s attempts to slash the program.

“The SNAP program provides a lifeline for families facing financial hardship,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “As the unemployment rate climbs daily, it is imperative that Congress increase the SNAP benefits available. Not only will hungry children and seniors benefit, but so will our farmers, as more money will be available to buy their fresh fruits and vegetables.”

In the survey, 62 percent of Americans support increasing SNAP, 24 percent want funding left the same, and only 5 percent want the program cut. In other words, 12 times as many people want to boost SNAP as those who want to cut it. Even among Republicans and residents of red states, support for increasing SNAP funding was strong.

“As a nation, it is immoral that we are allowing child hunger to be a consequence of the ongoing health and economic crises,” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. “Families that were already struggling to make ends meet before COVID-19 have predictably fallen through the cracks. I fought hard to increase SNAP benefits in recent coronavirus response packages, but to no avail because the White House and Congressional Republicans did not want to address this urgent problem. These are the results as Hunger Free America has found, and they are unconscionable. Child hunger should not be a partisan issue. Congress needs to come together to increase SNAP benefits for children and families immediately.”

U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations, said, “Families across America are struggling to put food on the table as workers see their jobs or wages disappear and school closures strip students of routine school meals. Food banks have played a critical role in supporting and feeding families during this difficult time, yet this new national poll demonstrates food banks alone cannot manage the increases in hunger we are currently seeing. SNAP is the nation’s most effective tool in fighting hunger. As we continue to address the needs of the current pandemic, Congress has a moral obligation to act swiftly to boost SNAP benefits to protect children, families, and vulnerable individuals from increased hunger and hardship.”

Continued Berg, “Given that adequate SNAP benefits stave off mass hunger and help keep U.S. food stores and farms in business, it is no wonder that the program is wildly popular. Even if there are still political leaders who are unwilling to increase food aid because it’s the right thing to do both morally and economically, they should do so because voters will exact a harsh vengeance on leaders who block this life-saving assistance.”

This data was collected on behalf of Hunger Free America, through a survey of 1,042 Americans nationwide conducted by Kupersmit Research, a Colorado-based strategic research firm. 

When asked who should pay for health care for COVID-19 victims, 64 percent said the federal government should make all treatment and testing free, 24 percent said the federal government should make such care more affordable, and only 5 percent said the federal government should not help at all. Regarding long-term health care policies, 71 percent of respondents support Medicare for All, a government-run public option, or keeping Obamacare as it is, versus only 15 percent who were for ending Obamacare.

In response, Benjamin Kupersmit, president of Kupersmit Research, said: “Just months ago, Hunger Free America released a survey showing huge support among working people of all backgrounds for a strong safety net, because they feared the possibility of a crisis in which they would lose their jobs and have no backup plan. This crisis is now here, and politicians who scrimp on SNAP funding, or block the government from guaranteeing healthcare to all Americans in this crisis and beyond, do so at their own peril."

Hunger Free American is an advocacy and direct service organization dedicated to creating the policies and program needed to end domestic hunger. The public can go to the organization’s website, at www.hungerfreeamerica.org, to access food help, donate funds, or volunteer remotely.

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