Food Insecurity and and Renting Ones Home Can Go Hand in Hand

Renting Households Twice As Likely to be Food Insecure Which Could Connect Social Determinants of Health

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) recently reported that renters are much more likely than homeowners to use charitable food programs. In fact, An Urban Institute article “Who is accessing charitable food in America?” reported on the results from the well-being and basic needs survey.

According the survey results, 15.3% of renters reported using charitable food programs compared to 7.5% of homeowners who used charitable food programs in the past 30 days to the survey period in 2018. This means that renter households are more than twice as likely as households that own their homes to be face some level of food insecurity. Charitable food programs include soup kitchens and food pantries.

The following statistics give some background about how many of these renter households in the U.S. are low-income.  According to the American Community Survey, two-thirds of all renter households (30.5 million) were in the bottom half of the income distribution.   As measured by HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs 2017 Report to Congress, 64% of renters had low incomes (80%t or less of area median income) and 26% had extremely low incomes (30% or less of area median income).

And systems and institutions beyond homeless and affordable housing providers and operators of soup kitchens and foodbanks are examining the connection between health, food and housing and more. The American Hospital Association (AHA) works to support hospitals and health systems as they address eight social determinants of health – including food and housing.

Taking a step back, approximately 1 in 10 adults ages 18 to 64 (10.3%) reported that they or someone in their household used charitable food in the 30 days before the Urban Institute survey. Among low-income adults, the rate is a significantly higher at 1 in 5 adults. These results suggest many more Americans are turning to food pantries and free meal programs than may be indicated by other national survey data.

One example of a population that is turning to resource centers that provide assistance with food and beyond is the student body of colleges and universities in New Jersey.  And many of these students may live in renter households.

The Resource Center at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) is a program located on campus that brings together resources and supports to empower student participants.

The Resource Center works to identify students, staff members and faculty of the college that need food assistance and makes it easily accessible on campus. Working with the Resource Center students are also connected to other needed resources.

In addition to reporting high rates of food insecurity, people whose households access charitable food services are typically struggling to pay for other basic needs beyond housing. These basic needs include utilities and medical bills from chronic illness or an unexpected health crisis.

These households are touched by other social determinants of health including transportation, health behaviors, education social supports, violence and employment. Just as one example, without access to education opportunities that then in turn may lead to employment opportunities, how can households be expect3ed to afford food, rent, utilities and medical bills.

Approximately two out of three people who have used charitable food assistance in the past 30 days report material hardship beyond food insecurity, indicating that other priorities, such as rent, may compete with food spending in family budgets.

Service providers, policy makers, and philanthropic funders who plan for, provide, and fund charitable food services can use this survey date to take the pulse of how well federal nutrition programs address the needs of low-income families.

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