Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Executive Summary

Food insecurity is defined as the “access…at all times to the food needed for a healthy life” (Powledge 2010). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15 percent of all Americans have experienced some measure of food insecurity. The issue is not new, but one that is ongoing and very complex and has impacts on individuals, households and society. In order to better understand the breadth and depth of the nation’s struggle with food sufficiency, an annual Food Supplement was attached to the Current Population Survey (CPS), a national labor force survey instrument. The CPS Food Supplement gathers information on food expenditures, participation in available assistance programs, household concerns regarding the sufficiency of food and ways in which households manage without being able to afford needed food (CPS Codebook). Food security is determined by one’s responses to these questions.

For the purposes of this study, data was extracted from the CPS on respondents deemed of low or very low food security (hereafter referred to as low food security). Initial tabulations of the data showed that approximately 75 percent of those with low food security did not frequent food banks. Consequently, this study seeks to compare those that frequented a food bank to those who did not in order to pinpoint potential predictors of food bank usage. The data was analyzed using simple linear and linear probability regression models. Findings indicate that factors such as income, homeownership and participation in other food assistance programs affected one’s likelihood of receiving food from a food bank, while variables such as gender and presence of children in the household did not seem to impact the probability of food bank usage.

Further analysis of the CPS as well as local data is recommended in order to better inform local food banks of specific needs and trends in particular areas. Yet, the findings of this study support prior research and serve as a reminder of the complexities of food insecurity.

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