Ask the Hunger Center

Below, you will find our answers to some of the more interesting questions we receive regarding hunger. We will update this page occasionally to bring you more information. If you'd like to ask your own question, please feel free to do so and we will respond as soon as we can.

Ask the Hunger Center a Question.

What is the difference between SNAP and welfare? Why isn't SNAP considered to be

The key difference between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and welfare programs is that SNAP does not provide cash benefits to recipients; whereas, programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for work-disabled individuals and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provide cash benefits to recipients. SNAP is an income supplement program which provides benefits to recipients who need help putting nutritious food on the table. Visit Fact vs. Fiction: USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to learn more.

How long can individuals receive food from the Food Bank? 

It varies based on program and participants. Most of the food that the North Texas Food Bank distributes is received by independent Partner Agencies that operate food pantries and meal programs. We supply them, and they serve people directly.

Pantries all have their own eligibility criteria. Many allow clients to visit once per month; many also limit the number of visits per year. We do not currently have the ability to track the frequency and duration of pantry usage by individual North Texas families. Across the national Feeding America network, about 1 in 4 clients use pantries only intermittently, while more than half are frequent or recurrent clients. This means that they have visited a pantry for at least six or more months in the last year. According to Feeding Americathis is evidence that “food pantries have become an ongoing part of the complex coping strategies many households employ to make ends meet each month.” Among recurrent clients (36%—those who have visited pantries at least once per month—the average period of time they have been served is 28 months. The older you are, the more likely you are to be a recurrent client.

There are other programs that NTFB operates. These include services designed for children and seniors. Elementary students who participate in Food 4 Kids (our "backpack program") are enrolled for as long as their families need the service. For some, this may be a few weeks or months; others participate for multiple years. Likewise, our Senior Box Program (PAN) and Nourishing Neighbors, our new senior home delivery service, are designed to provide ongoing support for older North Texans who live on low fixed incomes and/or are homebound.

In response to the Household Food Security Survey. Securing valid and reliable social survey data is no easy chore. These social services help quantify the need. How can we accurately measure need, when some respondents don’t want to admit food insecurity, while others may report that their circumstances are worse than they really are? 

Interesting questions. We would guess that some people do underreport food insecurity based on feelings of pride or shame, but we're not aware of any data that quantifies it.

On the question of bias toward demonstrating need, this wouldn't be an issue in the context of the U.S. Census Bureau's annual survey. When it's measured nationally, the food insecurity module is embedded in a much larger survey, which is conducted with the general public. It's not related to a service environment in which respondents may feel the need to justify a request for assistance.

However, when we ask people who are receiving assistance at food pantries, kitchens and shelters the same set of questions, about 1 in 4 register as food secure. What the survey itself does not measure or clarify is how households achieve food security–are they able to afford all the food they need with their own income, or do they receive help in some form?

Imagine two households with the same low income: A and B. Household A says that they're skipping meals often because they can't afford enough food. Household B can't afford enough food, either, but they receive enough support from social networks and food assistance programs that they eat well enough to get by. Same income and ability to pay, but Household A has very low food security and Household B is food secure, based on the survey.

For those NTFB clients who report that they are food secure, we imagine that some combination of federal nutrition programs- e.g. SNAP, WIC, School Breakfast and Lunch and grocery distribution and hot meal programs are helping them close that gap in their own household budgets. For others, the help they receive may move them up a level–say from very low to low food security–but not all the way. Others may never identify as food secure until they are able to reliably obtain all of the food that they need with their own resources.

Has hunger decreased since the worst days of the recession? 

The national "food insecurity" rate rose significantly in 2008 with the onset of the recession and it has not improved since then. Click here to read more about the Household Food Security Survey to learn more. The rate of food insecurity in our area also remains unacceptably high, affecting more than one in six North Texans. Visit Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap to learn more.   

Where is hunger concentrated in our area? Is it mainly in the poorest neighborhoods? 

The Hunger Center Map shows how North Texas Food Bank programs overlap with neighborhood economics. The lower your income, the greater your risk of hunger. However, six of 10 households in poverty report little or no food access problems, while many low to moderate income households struggle to keep healthy food on the table. Households with "low incomes," i.e., below 185 percent of the poverty level (about $43,000 for a family of four in 2013) are eligible for food pantry services. Nearly one in three residents of our 13-county area have incomes below that level. They live in every county we serve and are at much greater risk of hunger than households with higher incomes.

Do people who go to food pantries also get food stamps? Do they need both? 

About four in 10 NTFB pantry clients are currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). We do everything we can to assist eligible households to apply for SNAP benefits. For most participants, SNAP is helpful but not sufficient to meet their total monthly food needs. In fact, SNAP is not designed to provide a full month's worth of food; the average monthly benefit in our area (about $125 per person) lasts for just over half a month. Many recipients receive significantly less and many pantry clients are ineligible, based on their income or other factors. The gross monthly income limit for most SNAP applicants is 130 percent of poverty (about $2,500 for a family of four). Visit USDA SNAP Eligibility Guidelines to learn more.

Richard Amory Hunger Center of North Texas

Richard Amory
Director of Research at NTFB

As Director of Research for the NTFB, Richard Amory is developing The Hunger Center of North Texas. Prior to assuming this role, Richard managed the NTFB’s grant solicitation and foundation relationships, as well as the strategic planning process that produced the ReThink Hunger campaign.

 In addition to his work with the NTFB, Richard serves as a Data Coach to other Dallas area nonprofit organizations through the Data Driven Decision-Making (D3) Institute, a project of Communities Foundation of Texas. He is President of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program Local Board and a member of Children’s Medical Center’s Beyond ABC Advisory Board.

North Texas Food Bank 4500 S. Cockrell Hill Road Dallas, TX 75236-2028 214.330.1396 (MAP IT)

The development of this website was generously underwritten by The Hoblitzelle Foundation.

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