Thousands in NE Florida seek food assistance

322K people in northeast Florida have trouble putting food on table

By Bruce Hamilton - The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An estimated 322,300 people in 17 northeast Florida counties turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, according to a new study by Feeding Northeast Florida and Feeding America. Of those, 29 percent are children under age 18 and 15 percent are seniors 60 or older.

The Hunger in America 2014 local findings reveal that 38,000 people are served each week by programs supported through Feeding Northeast Florida. And, when accounting for multiple program visits, an estimated 1.48 million households turned to Feeding Northeast Florida network programs over the last six months.

The survey of the people who rely on food pantries in Northeast Florida estimates that:

  • 84 percent of the households are food insecure.
  • 14 percent of the households have no income, 38 percent have annual incomes under $10,000 and 27 percent have incomes between $10,001 and $20,000 – which means 69 percent of client households have income below the federal poverty level.
  • 68 percent of the households chose between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care at least once in the last year.
  • 79 percent of the households used multiple strategies for getting enough food over the last 12 months, including eating food past its expiration date, growing food in a garden, pawning or selling personal property, and watering down food or drinks.
  • Demographically, half of all food pantry clients in Northeast Florida are white, 40 percent are African American and 3 percent are Hispanic or Latino. Of those served, 76 percent have attained a high school degree or equivalent and 29 percent have attained a post-high school education or college degree.

"The results of this study show us that the face of hunger is one that we all recognize," said Feeding Northeast Florida President and CEO Bruce Ganger. "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 in September, it is important to remember the critical work Feeding Northeast Florida does every day, and how much more we can do together to solve hunger in Jacksonville and our surrounding communities."

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 – which represents one-in-seven Americans.

The study documents household demographics and offers a snapshot of the people served by Feeding Northeast Florida – 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 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."

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.