Assessing the Relationship Between Food Insecurity Events and Food Assistance Programs in Two Different Public Housing Communities

Year: 2003

Research Center: Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University

Investigator: Bezuneh, Mesfin, and Zelealem Yiheyis

Institution: Clark Atlanta University

Project Contact:
Mesfin Bezuneh, Associate Professor
Department of Economics
Clark Atlanta University
223 James P. Brawley Drive, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30314
Phone: 404-880-6274


In spite of the economic growth and relatively low unemployment that characterized the U.S. economy over much of the past decade, food insufficiency and hunger continued to affect certain segments of the U.S. population. This study estimated the prevalence of food insecurity for a sample of housing assistance recipients in Atlanta, GA, and examined how the timing of food stamp receipt influences a household's food insecurity status.

The study compared households in two different types of public housing communities. The first type is a traditional public housing unit that consists of 500 apartment units occupied by eligible low-income families. The second type is a mixed-income housing community, in which a portion of units are subsidized for eligible low-income families and the remainder are available to anyone at market prices. The authors conducted a survey of 322 housing assistance recipients, collecting information on demographic characteristics, income, and receipt of government assistance, as well as information used to determine a household's food security status.

The study found that 52 percent of the respondents were food insecure and 16 percent were food insecure with hunger. The majority of the respondents (61 percent) reported receipt of food stamps and other forms of government assistance (in addition to their housing subsidy) in the month prior to the interview period. Respondents in mixed-income housing units had higher average income, higher employment rates, and were less likely to be food insecure than respondents in traditional public housing communities. It is not known whether the relatively favorable conditions for housing assistance recipients in mixed-income households are a result of the difference in the type of housing assistance or whether households that are most likely to experience better conditions are more able to access mixed-income housing assistance.

The study found that 22 percent of respondent households contained at least one adult who reduced food intake. The survey's items that register reduced food intake included cutting the size of or skipping meals or going without eating for a whole day because of a lack of money for food at some time during the month before the survey. Among these households, the incidence of reduced food intake was more likely to occur during the fourth week of the month, especially for public assistance recipients. The authors note the need for further research on the timing of the disbursal of public assistance.