Faces of Hunger


Food Bank of WNY Presents:

The Faces of Hunger in

Western New York 2014

The Hunger Study tells the story of who we assist and how we reach out to those in need in WNY. The report summarizes our member agency programs and the services they provide as well as the resources (staff and funding) necessary to operate effectively. This data was compiled between October 2012 and August 2013.

The report also provides client characteristics including demographics such as education, employment status and household income. It paints a portrait of the hurdles individuals face as they try to maintain their housing, health and general well-being. Among food assistance clients, the rates of poverty and food insecurity are generally very high. Some of the challenges include having to choose between paying rent/utilities, medical costs, transportation, student loans and child care over food. Oftentimes, food choices made are unhealthy because these items are less expensive and more accessible in neighborhoods battling poverty. Over time, this leaves many clients struggling with health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and malnourishment.

One important focus of the Food Bank of WNY is to address the issue of hunger among children. We provide food to many programs that uniquely serve children, including Backpack, Kids in the Kitchen, our Afterschool Snack Programs, Day Care Centers and Summer Camps. Although information about these programs was included in the Hunger Study, the programs were not included in the participant survey. We bring awareness to the face of hunger in WNY and the challenges we face as a community. We strive to identify strength-based solutions to address this far-reaching problem. 


Of the 165,000 individuals the Food Bank assists annually in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara Counties:

• 28% are children under the age of 18, with 8% between the ages of 0-5
• 16% are seniors, 60 and older
• 85% are high school graduates and of those, 31% are college educated
• 39% are employed, 33% are unemployed and actively seeking work and 28% are not working because they are retired or disabled and cannot work
• 27% of the adults assisted are currently serving or have served in the military
• 66% are White, 17% Black or African American, 10% Hispanic and the remaining 7% of the emergency food recipients are from other racial groups

The faces of poverty in WNY include a family of four with a sudden loss of income due to a plant closure in a community with limited living wage jobs, an elderly couple working all their lives only to find that their fixed income has made it necessary for them to choose between heating their home and a hot meal, and a young couple who have given birth to a child with special needs and medical costs not covered by their insurance. 


• 62% of clients have annual incomes at or below the official federal poverty line ($23,850 for a family of 4)
• 20% have no health insurance coverage
• 59% were forced to choose between procuring medicine/medical care or paying for food in the past 12 months
• 67% of households have at least one family member with diabetes or high blood pressure
• 68% had to choose to pay for utilities as opposed to paying for food in the past 12 months 



• 10% of households with children ages 0-5 are participating in WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children)
• Among households with school age children, 89% participate in the Federal School Lunch program. However, only 59% of households with school age children participate in the School Breakfast Program
• 67% of client households receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) however, on average, SNAP benefits were reported to only last 2.5 weeks. Of this, 27,543 are seniors
• USDA provided 2,759,498 pounds of food for distribution by the Food Bank to its member agencies in 2013
• HPNAP provided 2,129,909 pounds of food for distribution by the Food Bank to its member agencies in 2013
• The balance of food needed to provide for those we serve, 9,145,819 pounds of food, comes from food we purchase or receive through donations


• 89% of food pantries say the elimination of support from Food Bank of Western New York would have a significant or devastating impact on their operations and report that funding problems threaten their continued operation
• 27% of our agencies experienced funding cutbacks leading to layoffs and a cut in hours of operation
• 89 % of our agencies reported that they rely heavily on the Food Bank of WNY for support
• 89% of clients report they are food insecure. Of the 172,420 people that are food insecure, 30% are over the income threshold for food assistance programs (WIC, USDA, HPNAP, SNAP, and School-sponsored Free and Reduced Meals)



The findings discussed in this report demonstrate that the Food Bank of WNY has a critical role in assisting those in need. According to the US Census there are 1,350,887 people in the Food Bank of WNY service area. We are impacting 165,000 individuals or 12% of the population annually, and an average of 105,632 monthly. It further confirms our partnership with member agencies as they meet the unique needs and circumstances of the clients they serve, addressing hunger in WNY.



Advocate: The Food Bank of WNY will continue to educate all levels of government on the importance of increasing funding for government programs including SNAP, WIC, National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. In the interim, we will also stress the important role that food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens have in filling the gap. Join us in asking your elected officials to help end hunger by signing up for our advocacy alerts and calls to action at www.foodbankwny.org take action tab.

Collaborate: We are committed to working closely with our member programs by including them as an important voice at the table. We ask that our community partners get involved by donating time with your local food pantry or soup kitchen to see how you can help strengthen their capacity.

Communicate: Hunger is a solvable problem in WNY; we just need enough voices to bring about action. If you are interested in getting involved, please do give us a call at (716) 852-1305.

To learn more about how you can bring your voice to the table, visit our website: www.foodbankwny.org or call us at (716)-852-1305


The Food Bank of WNY wishes to thank those who made The Faces of Hunger in Western New York 2014 possible: the many people using the emergency food network who were willing to share their personal stories, Food Bank member agencies, and Food Bank staff and their volunteers. We are also grateful to Feeding America for statistics provided surrounding food insecurity through the Hunger Study and Map the Meal Gap.

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