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When Even the ‘Dollar Value Meal’ Costs too Much: Food Insecurity and Long Term Dependence on Food Pantry Assistance

PAQ, Vol. 35 No. 1, (2011)

Understanding the characteristics of people needing services is critical to designing effective anti-poverty programs. Using time-series data from client files at participating non-profit food pantries, profiles of 463 individuals accessing private, non-profit food assistance from 2005-2008, representing more than 5,000 separate visits were created. First the characteristics of clients accessing the pantries are presented. Then, to analyze how each of a number of variables affects pantry status, a limited, exploratory regression analysis is used to test the impact of food stamp status and number of individuals in the household on length of food pantry usage measured in days. Client characteristics like income, race, and household size provide little substantive information about the length of time a food pantry client relies on the food assistance network. Instead, this study shows that organizational characteristics appear to be much better predictors of reliance on a food pantry. This finding suggests that organizational capacity may offer a new perspective for food assistance policy.

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