2019 Hunger Survey

Survey Reveals Faces of Hunger

For the first time in 5 years, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, in collaboration with the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute at Brown University, released the results of a statewide survey identifying demographic details of households impacted by hunger in Rhode Island.

Conducted during the first half of 2019, the survey provided valuable information regarding the economic circumstances and challenges faced by the people served at the 168 member agencies that make up the Food Bank network.

Read the 2019 RI Hunger Survey Brief.

Or read the complete 2019 RI Hunger Survey Report.

Key Findings:

  • 66% of households that visit food pantries include a child (0-17 yrs old) or senior (65+ yrs old)
  • 45% of respondents report being in poor or fair health (as opposed to good, very good, or excellent)
  • 69% of households with children have an employed adult yet 89% live below the poverty line
  • 75% of respondents are enrolled in SNAP (which the USDA plans to cut, leaving 11,000 Rhode Islanders without food assistance including 5,000 children)

Employed, Impoverished, and Facing Cuts to Assistance

“Even with a strong economy, thousands of Rhode Islanders are struggling to put food on the table,” says our CEO, Andrew Schiff.

According to the data, adults are finding employment, but are still unable to earn enough to get through the month, even with food assistance like SNAP. Couple that with health issues and debt and it becomes impossible to escape the cycle of poverty.

We are particularly concerned about imminent cuts to federal assistance that could leave 11,000 Rhode Islanders – including 5,000 children – without any benefits.

As Schiff says, “when these cuts happen, people will come to us, to our member agencies. And I’m not sure we’ll be able to handle that kind of sudden increase without additional resources or support.”

The findings also reveal that food pantries are visited by some of the most vulnerable populations with 66% of households including a child or senior and many living below the poverty level.

Hunger Harms Health

In addition 45% of respondents report significant health-related issues.

“We also see from the survey that hunger is a health issue, particularly for children and seniors. They need nutritious food to thrive or to keep from developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. That’s why it is so important for us to provide nutritious foods and collaborate with health care providers,” says Schiff.


Volunteers conducted the survey after being trained by the Food Bank and the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute at Brown University. A total of 419 interviews were collected at 61 sites.

“At the Hassenfeld Institute, we’re committed to improving the health of children and families here in Rhode Island,” said Melissa Clark, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Brown School of Public Health. “We were thrilled to participate in conducting this survey with the Food Bank and analyzing the data, knowing that the results will help better serve children and families in need of food assistance.”

Read the complete 2019 RI Hunger Survey Report