Food Security Status of Nonprofit Food Assistance Recipients in Selected Southern States

Year: 2004

Research Center: Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University

Investigator: Onianwa, Odili, Godfrey Ejimakor, Fisseha Tegegne, and Andrew Zekeri

Institution: Alabama A&M University

Project Contact:
Odili Onianwa
Alabama A&M University
Department of Agribusiness
P.O. Box 1562
Normal, AL 35762
Phone: 256-372-4825


Recent indirect evidence indicates there may be an increase in the demand for food from nonprofit food assistance agencies such as food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, and other programs. ERS research indicates that 89 percent of U.S. households were food secure in 2002, while 11 percent were food insecure at least some time during that year. The prevalence of food insecurity rose from 10.7 percent in 2001 to 11.1 percent in 2002, while the prevalence of food insecurity with hunger increased from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent.

The rural South presents a unique opportunity to better understand the food security status of clients served by nonprofit food assistance agencies and its social consequences. Previous research has shown that hunger is more common in the South and the West than in other regions. Therefore, research in the South can help assess the role of nonprofit food assistance agencies in meeting the food needs of the local population and in improving the social well-being of their clients.

The study objective was to assess the food security status of families who use nonprofit food assistance agencies in selected Southern states. In addition, urban and rural differences in food security and household socio-demographic characteristics were examined. The study data were generated from a random sample of 606 clients of nonprofit food assistance agencies in the selected States.

The results indicate that most of the users were moderately or severely food insecure with hunger. However, a majority of the clients were not utilizing the Food Stamp Program even though their use of nonprofit food assistance agencies may indicate income-eligibility for the program. To address food insecurity among low-income households, policies could be promoted to encourage nonprofit food assistance agencies to assist in identifying needy and food stamp-qualified families, and to encourage these families to apply for food stamp benefits. These policies could greatly enhance the efforts of food stamp agencies in their quest to mitigate hunger and food insecurity among low-income households.