Using the data collected for the Hunger in America 2010 – Report Prepared for the Food Bank of North Alabama published by Feeding America, we are able to offer a portrait of a typical family seeking food assistance in North Alabama today.
A typical family seeking emergency food assistance in North Alabama has one or two children in the home and may have a chronically ill family member. Most families are NOT enrolled in the SNAP (food stamp) or WIC program. The annual household income is $10,450 or $850 per month. Throughout the year family members are choosing between buying food and paying the utility bills or medical bills. The typical family is headed by a white, single female. Historically, the majority of families receiving food assistance had at least one member of the home working - but that changed with the 2008 economic downturn and job losses in North Alabama.
The three significant changes occurred between 2006 and 2010 in the portrait of the average person seeking food assistance: (1) The person’s education level increased; (2) the family members were in better health; and (3) the family lived in an urban center rather than in the suburbs or a rural community. These shifts in education levels, the number of ill household members and the move from rural to urban centers may reflect the effects of recent job losses and the economic downturn – which likely forced people to use food assistance who have not had to seek help before.
This is consistent with the 21% increase from 2006 to 2010 in unduplicated persons receiving food assistance in North Alabama. The number of people served jumped from approximately 83,000 in 2006 to 104,000 in 2010.