Majority of working poor experience food insecurity

Working poor individuals and families face food insecurity.
Some "working poor"
individuals and families
may have to skip meals.

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Working Poor Study
fact sheet
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Sixty-one percent of “working poor” individuals and families faced food insecurity during the previous year, according to a study released in June 2008 by the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the University of Chicago Survey Lab. Food insecurity is defined as lacking money for food, lacking money to maintain a balanced diet, cutting meal sizes or skipping meals to stretch food, or going hungry. Forty-nine percent of respondents experienced three or more of the food insecure conditions.

“The study results provide a snapshot of the usage of food assistance programs by the working poor,” said Alicia Huguelet, director of public policy for the Food Depository. “The study also quantifies the challenges in connecting the working poor to food assistance programs while highlighting potential opportunities for the Food Depository to assist these families and individuals.”

The study defined “the working poor” as individuals who worked at least 20 hours per week for at least 27 weeks in the last year but whose incomes fall below 175 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four with one person working part-time and earning $36,137 or less would be considered a working poor family. Other findings included:

Among food insecure households, 30 percent did not access any food assistance programs and only 22 percent used a food pantry.

Among all working poor respondents in Cook County, 22 percent had used a pantry within the past year, 59 percent had never used a pantry, 5 percent had never used any type of food assistance program and 70 percent have children under age 18 in the household.