What Do Americans Really Think About Hunger?

A recent survey of more than 1,500 Americans gives us a glimpse of how the country views hunger. The survey, conducted from July to August of 2014, addressed four main topics: Attitudes about hunger, experience with hunger, hunger policy views, and opinions regarding child nutrition programs.

According to the survey results, hunger in the United States is viewed as a serious problem by almost half (45%) of adults. Many of those surveyed recognized that hunger affects countless families every day in America, whether that means children eating unhealthy, inexpensive meals or having to skip meals so their families can afford other immediate expenses. According to the report, “Americans seem to have less appreciation for the abstract concept of ‘hunger’ than they do for what hunger means for some people on a day-to-day basis.”

Thirty-nine percent of adults surveyed have received benefits in the past couple years or have an immediate family member that has benefited from a federal food-related program, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); or the school lunch and breakfast programs. Groups with especially high percentages of self or family participation included young adults aged 18-35 (51%), African Americans (59%), Hispanics (56%), and those with no more than a high school degree (49%).

Financial concerns were perceived to be the biggest contributor to hunger; however, 50% also believed that a lack of food preparation and nutrition knowledge contributes to hunger. Many survey respondents were aware of the major consequences of hunger, with 71% agreeing that hunger and obesity are related, and 62% agreeing that reducing hunger would reduce healthcare costs.

» Related article: Hunger and Obesity: How These Two Nutrition-Related Issues Are Connected

Americans see a role for the nonprofit sector in addressing hunger, but they also see the local and federal government as playing a major role. Sixty-one percent agree that “we should support and improve government-sponsored food assistance programs so that more people who are struggling can get the help they need.” In addition, 48% believe that we should be spending more money to address the problem of hunger (34% say the same, 18% say less).

When it comes to child nutrition programs in particular, 82% have favorable feelings for the national school lunch program, 80% for the school breakfast program, and 73% for WIC.

One statistic that particularly stood out was the low percentage of individuals (36%) that responded that they personally had a great or fair amount of responsibility to help deal with hunger. An additional 40% responded that they felt some responsibility, and about 24% responded that they did not have much or had no responsibility.

Despite the low level of personal responsibility, an overwhelming 86% agreed with the statement, “In the United States of America, no one should go hungry.” If we are going to fully address hunger across the country so that no one goes hungry, we truly need a collaborative effort. This means government programming, nonprofit support, and community and individual efforts all coming together to work toward the goal of eliminating hunger.

How do your views compare to the results from the survey? Read the full report here for more details.


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Chloe Plummer, MS, RD, LD, is a clinical dietitian with ProMedica Advocacy and Community Health, and her main passion is promoting childhood and adolescent health and wellness. She has a bachelor of science degree in Health and Sport Studies from Miami University and a master of science degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University.