Over 15 percent of the residents of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s 11-county service area obtain food assistance from the Food Bank and our charitable food provider network.

According to the Hunger America 2014 report, these residents struggle with health issues, employ a variety of coping strategies and make painful trade-offs to feed themselves and their families. This study was conducted in partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization.

The use of food assistance is widespread.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank serves nearly 360,000 people annually, including 76,000 children and 92,000 seniors age 60 and older.

  • 37,600 unique clients are served in a typical week
  • 16,300 unique households are served in a typical week
  • 157,300 households are served annually
  • Assistance is provided to individuals 46,900 times in a typical week and 2,445,700 times annually
  • Households are reached 22,000 times in a typical week and 1,145,900 times annually

Our Clients

  • 65 percent of client households have incomes that fall at or below the federal poverty level ($23,850 annually for a family of 4 in 2014)
  • 6 percent of clients have no income
  • 51 percent of client households have annual incomes of $10,000 or less
  • 33 percent have annual incomes of $10,001 to $20,000
  • 71 percent of clients are white and 22 percent are black
  • 28 percent of households include a veteran or someone currently serving in the military
  • 21 percent are children under age 18
  • 26 percent are seniors age 60 and older
  • 83 percent of all clients have attained a high school degree or General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or a higher level of education
  • 27 percent of clients have post-high school education (including license or certification, some college, or a four-year degree)

Our clients struggle with health issues.

  • 74 percent of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food because they could not afford healthier options
  • 62 percent of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care
  • 57 percent of households have a member with high blood pressure
  • 32 percent of households include a member with diabetes
  • 47 percent of households have a member with unpaid medical bills
  • 17 percent report having a household member in poor health
  • 15 percent of households lack health insurance of any kind (including Medicaid)

Our clients make tough choices and trade-offs to keep food on the table.

These are the choices client households reported making in the past 12 months:

  • 62 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities
  • 62 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care
  • 59 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for transportation
  • 54 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing
  • 14 percent of respondents have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years
  • 24 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for education expenses

53 percent of households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months. The frequency of these strategies among all households include:

  • 74 percent report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food
  • 58 percent report eating food past the expiration date
  • 51 percent report receiving help from friends or family
  • 31 percent report watering down food or drinks
  • 28 percent report growing food in a garden
  • 22 percent report pawning or selling personal property

Low wages, underemployment and unemployment drive need.

  • Among all households served by Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank agencies and programs, 39 percent have at least one member who has been employed in the past year
  • Among all households with an employed person, the person with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed part-time (89 percent) than full-time (11 percent)
  • In 71 percent of client households the most-employed person from the past 12 months is currently out of work

SNAP Participation

61 percent of client households report participation in SNAP.  Across all households reporting current receipt of SNAP:

  • 22 percent report that SNAP benefits last only one week or less
  • 33 percent report that benefits last two weeks
  • 33 percent report that benefits last for three weeks
  • 12 percent report that benefits usually last four weeks or more

Our Member Agencies

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank member agencies operate 1,130 programs.

  • 481 are grocery programs which distribute non-prepared foods, groceries, and other household supplies for off-site use
  • 419 are non-food programs which have a primary purpose other than meal programs, grocery programs, or food-related benefits programs, such as clothing/furniture assistance, legal assistance, or job training
  • 213 are meal programs which provide prepared meals or snacks on site or in the client’s home
  • 17 are food-related benefits programs which typically involve outreach, education, information and referrals, and/or application assistance to obtain federal or state assistance benefits
  • 56 percent of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s charitable agencies employ no paid staff and are operated exclusively by volunteers
  • 51 percent of agencies saw an increase in the volume of clients compared to the prior year, 8 percent saw a decrease, and for 41 percent the volume of clients remained the same as the prior year
  • 56 percent are faith-based or located in a religious institution
  • 28 percent reported that they had somewhat less or a lot less food available to meet the needs of clients in the last twelve months

Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. Confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained data collectors. The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.