The FINANCIAL — Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults – an estimated 50.4 million – know someone who doesn't have enough to eat, and 43% of those who do say it's someone close to them.
The FINANCIAL — Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults – an estimated 50.4 million – know someone who doesn't have enough to eat, and 43% of those who do say it's someone close to them. In total, this means that roughly one in ten (9%) U.S. adults – or roughly 21.6 Million – have someone close to them who is hungry. As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a strong majority of Americans (76%) see the problem of hunger in the United States as either serious (53%) or very serious (22%), according to the Harris Poll of 2,300 adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest income segment of the population – those with household incomes of under $35,000 annually – are the most likely both to know someone who is hungry (33%, vs. 19% $35k-<$50k, 20% $50k-<$75k, 18% $75k-<$100k, 12% $100k+) and to see hunger as a very serious problem in the U.S. (33% vs. 23%, 17%, 13% and 19%, respectively). Also in line with expectations, those who know someone who's hungry are in turn significantly more likely to see hunger in the U.S. as a serious/very serious problem (95% of those who know someone who's hungry vs. 70% of those who do not) and three times as likely to see it specifically as a very serious problem (43% vs. 17%, respectively).
Looking at political leanings, Democrats (85%) are more likely than either Independents (71%) or Republicans (67%) to see hunger as a serious/very serious problem; similarly, Liberals (87%) are more likely to hold this belief than Moderates (75%), who in turn are more likely to feel this way than Conservatives (69%), according to Harris Interactive Inc.
While a strong majority of Americans correctly identify poverty (77%) as among the main causes of hunger in the U.S., the next highest percentage – four in ten (42%) – point to food waste. Four in ten turns out to be a figure of some significance, as it's the same as the portion of food – an estimated 40%, per the Natural Resources Defense Council – that is wasted in the U.S. every year, to the tune of about $165 billion worth. Over three-fourths of Americans (78%) believe that wasting food is immoral, but clearly many of us are contributing to the problem – however unintentionally – nonetheless.
"With so many people wanting for food in the U.S., it would be easy to think that there simply isn't enough to go around," said Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll. "But the sad fact is that if we could cut down on waste and get our surplus food to the right tables, we could feed as many as 25 million Americans. With more than one in five children at risk of hunger in our country, these are challenges we need to take seriously," he added.
Americans do seem to understand that a great deal of food is wasted in the United States, though a majority (55%) underestimates the amount of annual waste, believing it to be 30% or less. Looking at which Americans are more and less likely to underestimate food waste:
Republicans (63%) are more likely than Democrats (52%) to underestimate U.S. food waste at 30% or less.
Men (66%) are likewise more inclined than women (46%) to do the same.
Millennials (44%) are less likely to underestimate food waste than any other generation (55% Gen Xers, 62% Baby Boomers, 65% Matures).
Lower income Americans (49% <$35k, 51% $35k-<$50k) are less likely than their higher earning counterparts (58% $50k-<$75k, 61% $75k-<$100k, 63% $100k+) to do so.
As bad as the hunger problem is in our country, the problem is worse still on a global level, and American opinions reflect this. Nearly all U.S. adults (95%) believe hunger is a serious or very serious problem worldwide, and the majority (57%) identify it as very serious. Unlike hunger in the U.S., recognition of the hunger problem worldwide is all but universal across demographics, according to Harris Interactive Inc.
Americans show several points of conflict when asked for their opinions on hunger issues. Vast majorities agree that it should be a national priority to feed struggling families in the United States (86%) and that we should worry about hunger in the U.S. before worrying about it on a worldwide level (85%).
However, three-fourths also recognize that helping to end worldwide hunger would be beneficial to the United States (76%), and six in ten feel it should be a national priority to feed struggling families worldwide (59%) – meaning that some Americans are torn between the belief that fixing the hunger problem in our country should come first and the belief that worldwide hunger should be a priority today.