New study reveals face of hunger in West Michigan, Upper Peninsula

Conducted every four years, Hunger in America 2014 was released Aug. 18, 2014.
Conducted every four years, Hunger in America 2014 was released Aug. 18, 2014.

August 18, 2014 — Comstock Park, Michigan — Hunger in America 2014, a study conducted by national hunger-relief organization Feeding America, finds that an estimated 492,100 people in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula turn to Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank and its network of food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. This includes 58,200 seniors and at least 119,400 children.

Hunger in America 2014 found that, nationwide, more than 46 million people turn to Feeding America food banks for help each year. Feeding America West Michigan is just one of the more than 200 food banks in that network.

The study offers a snapshot of the people served by Feeding America West Michigan — their circumstances, the challenges they face and the choices they are forced to make living on extremely limited incomes.

“This study shows us that the face of hunger looks a lot like the one we see in the mirror,” said Ken Estelle, CEO of Feeding America West Michigan. “Most of us are one or two catastrophic events away from being in the same position.

“There’s a myth out there that those who seek assistance are lazy, that they are choosing not to work. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Estelle said.

The study found that in 30.2 percent of client households, at least one adult had worked for pay in the last four weeks. Additionally, 40 percent had at least some education beyond high school.

The study underscored the fact that food insecurity is generally one of many difficulties facing the people we serve. Among Feeding America West Michigan clients, 18.9 percent of households have no health insurance coverage at all, 65 percent have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or healthcare, and 22.6 percent have been evicted or foreclosed on in the last five years.

“The Hunger in America 2014 findings demonstrate the urgent need for all of us to address hunger in our communities,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “This data provides a factual basis for decisions about how we as a nation approach hunger relief and protect our most vulnerable citizens.” 

Facts from Hunger in America 2014

• Feeding America West Michigan serves 492,100 people annually, including 58,200 seniors and at least 119,400 children.
• 76.5 percent of Feeding America West Michigan client households had incomes less than $20,000 per year.
• 25.4 percent of client households include a veteran or current service member, compared to 20 percent of client households nationally.
• 65 percent of clients have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medications or care.
• 70.6 percent of clients are white, 7.4 percent are black and 10.1 percent are Hispanic.
• 9.1 percent of adult clients are students.

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. Nationally, confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained volunteer data collectors.

The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

The report for West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula can be viewed at The full national report is available at