Hunger Research Publications

Hunger Research Documents and Publications

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A Portrait of Hunger, the Social Safety Net, and the Working Poor

Millions of Americans turn to Food Stamps, soup kitchens and other hunger relief services to feed themselves and their families. Contrary to common perception, many of these families are working and yet their incomes are still insufficient to meet their basic needs. According to a recent two-year survey of over 2,000 clients at the largest food pantry in Northeast Iowa, 25 percent of people asking for food assistance were employed. What are the relationships between hunger, employment and government support programs? Why do people on government support programs or with jobs need donated food? To help answer these questions, this paper will present the comprehensive results of the Iowa survey, creating a portrait of the working population who rely regularly on non-profit food assistance. Surprisingly, working does not seem to help a low-income person avoid chronic food insecurity. We found that neither working nor accessing government benefits has a meaningful impact on the odds that a person will need long-term food assistance – that is, a recurrent visit to the food pantry to receive bags of free food. In fact, those people who work are more likely to have sacrificed food to pay for other life necessities. For the poor, working makes it harder to put food on the table, not easier. Government benefits do not seem to provide an adequate food safety net, and non-profits are experiencing increased pressure to fill the gap. The policy ramifications of these findings are clear. First, while this study can not be broadly generalized beyond this population, the findings suggest that policies encouraging work among the poor should recognize the standard of living for these individuals may become less stable, rather than more so, as a result of gaining employment. To more fully understand this relationship, a longitudinal analysis of employment and food assistance data should be undertaken. Second, if we wish to maintain the government responsibility to alleviate hunger in our country, benefits for eligible citizens must be increased or food assistance non-profits need greater government support. Otherwise we should face the fact that as an undeclared public policy, our society tolerates hunger.
2013-Dec-02

Evaluation of the 2012 North Carolina Super Summer Meals Pilot

The 2012 North Carolina Super Summer Meals Pilot program sought to increase the percentage of eligible children receiving federally funded summer meals by 10 percent in eleven pilot public school districts (known as local education agencies, or LEAs) and by 2 percent for all LEAs statewide. The program exceeded its goals, showing dramatic increases in meal sites established and meals served. Despite these gains, however, the effort to achieve them was intense, and there is clear room for further program improvement, especially in reducing the administrative burden for local school nutrition directors and community partners.
Summer Mean Program, Program Evaluation, Report 2014-Jul-18

Minority Contracting Programs: A Critical Juncture of Public Policy, Administration, Law, and Statistics.

The challenge of advancing policy goals and public administration is compounded when legal compliance rests on data and complex analysis. This is true of disparity studies that support local government-sponsored minority contracting programs. How can local governments prepare to work with such programs in this complex environ- ment? The authors analyze several court cases challenging minority contracting programs and illustrate the difficulty of administering public programs at the juncture of public policy goals, subtle changes in law, and demands for quality statistical analysis. Many public agencies, especially at the local level, are not prepared to address the data requirements demanded by these programs. To help with this challenge, the authors develop a set of guiding principles to help practitioners satisfy the legal require- ments and meet the policy goals of minority contracting and similar programs. This includes a new emphasis on continuous gathering of valid, local-level data.
public administration, minority, statistics, evaluation, measurement 2013-Dec-02

Organizational Capacity of Nonprofit Social Service Agencies

The U.S. social safety net is formed by governmental and nonprofit organizations, which are trying to respond to record levels of need. This is especially true for local level organizations, such as food pantries. The organizational capacity literature has not covered front-line, local, mostly volunteer and low resource organizations in the same depth as larger ones. This analysis is a consideration of whether grassroots nonprofit organizations have the ability to be a strong component of the social safety net. Based on the literature on organizational capacity, a model is developed to examine how service delivery at the local level is affected by organizational capacity. Surprisingly, find few of the characteristics previously identified as important are statistically significant in this study. Even when so, the material effect is negligible. Current organizational capacity research may apply to larger nonprofits, but may not to the tens of thousands of small community nonprofits, a significant limitation to the research to date.
Organizational capacity, nonprofit, social safety net, food assistance 2013-Dec-02

When Even the ‘Dollar Value Meal’ Costs Too Much: Food Insecurity and Long Term Dependence on Food Pantry Assistance

Understanding the characteristics of people needing services is key to designing effective anti- poverty programs. Using time-series data from client files at participating non-profit food pantries, we created profiles of over 500 individuals accessing private, non-profit food assistance from 2005-2008, representing almost 3,966 separate visits. One of the central factors we are considering is whether or not the recipients are already participating in food stamps, the primary government food assistance program. We also focus on the role of employment and household situation, as well as a variety of household and demographic factors. We find the typical client is African American. There is not a typical family size – clients are about as likely to come from a large family as a small one. Pantry clients re port a median income that is 23 percent less than the median county income and 29 percent less than the state median. A client typically visited a pantry 4 times, although a large share visited much more often.
2013-Dec-02