Report: Requests for food assistance up 24 percent
Requests for emergency food assistance increased in 2010 by an average of 24 percent in the 27 cities participating in the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) annual Hunger and Homelessness Report. The report also found that the number of families experiencing homelessness increased by an average of 9 percent over the past year.
Among those requesting emergency food service, 56 percent were families and 30 percent were employed, according to the report. Respondents cited unemployment, housing costs and low wages as the three main causes of hunger. Over the next year, 56 percent of surveyed cities expect a moderate decrease in resources for providing emergency food assistance, and another 8 percent expect a substantial decrease.
Most respondents said increasing demand and decreasing resources, particularly related to federal and state budget problems, are the biggest challenges to addressing hunger in the coming year, and USCM leaders cited the report’s findings as illustrative of the need to support local and federal food programs. “[The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) is] is an integral safety net for hungry families in our cities,” Asheville, N.C., Mayor and USCM Hunger and Homelessness Task Force Chairman Terry Bellamy said during a press conference call announcing the survey results. “Mayors want to ensure that the recent cuts made to the food stamp program are restored, and we support the [Obama] administration’s efforts in this regard.”
Along with the 9 percent increase in homelessness among families, the survey found that the number of unaccompanied individuals experiencing homelessness over the past year increased by 2 percent. For families, unemployment was the leading cause of homelessness in the surveyed cities, and for individuals, lack of affordable housing was the leading cause.
Also, an average of 27 percent of homeless persons needing assistance did not receive it because of a lack of resources. Officials in 72 percent of the surveyed cities said they expect the number of homeless families to increase in 2011, and 77 percent of respondents expect the number of homeless individuals to increase as a result of a decrease in resources to provide emergency shelter.
Download a copy of the report, the survey questionnaire and a press release about the report.