Is Food Insecurity on the Rise in Lane County?

Survey Findings Point to Key Trends and Root Causes

The biennial Community Survey (formerly “Hunger Factors Survey”) results are in, and they show a number of challenging experiences faced by Lane County residents when it comes to food security. We hope that the analysis of this personal information shared by Lane County residents will help to inform FOOD For Lane County and other mission-driven organizations endeavoring to support the community and respond to crucial social issues.

This was a non-scientific survey with results from self-selected participants. This survey gathered data from nearly 1,850 members of our community here in Lane County, who most likely took the survey due to their participation in FOOD For Lane County’s (FFLC’s) programs and partner agencies’ programs. 83% of respondents reported that their households get food from food pantries sometimes (62%) or often (21%). (Note: Access to programs was not contingent on survey participation.)

The data indicates food-related issues experienced by the community but also points to root causes of food insecurity. Data included represents answers from all survey respondents, including those who indicated that they do not receive food assistance. This is because all respondents answered questions specific to their experiences with food insecurity. We compare some of these 2023 survey findings with previous years’ data collected by FOOD For Lane County and Oregon Food Bank in 2021 and 2018.

The number of people in Lane County going without food when they are hungry is on the rise. Those reporting having been hungry but not eating because they didn’t have enough food has increased from 61% in 2021 to 68% in 2023. This follows an upward trend, rising from 49% in 2018.

map of Lane County with shades of green and names of municipalities

Numbers of survey respondents from each area of Lane County.

A higher percentage of children have less to eat. When asked if they had ever cut the size of their children’s meals or if children ever skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food, 691 people (48%) responded with “often” or “sometimes.” This number is up 2% from a steady 46% in 2018 and 2021.

Our community is facing an increased struggle to get enough to eat. 865 people (56%) responded that even with food programs like SNAP and food pantries, they are not or are sometimes not able to meet their household’s food needs for the month. This is a 10% increase from 2021.

Food insecurity is associated with chronic health issues (Source). 68% of surveyed households indicated the presence of one or more chronic health issues in their household, including: diabetes (22%), high blood pressure (18%), mental health disorder (17%), obesity (15%), and physical disability (15%). 406 (22%) of respondents reported that there were no chronic health conditions present in their household.

Respondents reported that access to food assistance benefits them in many ways, especially by allowing them to: prepare healthier meals (51%), pay rent/mortgage (35%), have more energy for work and family (33%), pay utility bills (31%), focus on their job search (19%), and more. (See page 8 of the full report for more data.)

What does the community need? The survey asked what would help participants to no longer need food assistance. The most common answers were: higher pay (63%), affordable housing (47%), better job (42%), nearby food assistance options (26%), and healthcare (25%).

There are several barriers community members face which prevent them from accessing free food resources. For those who reported that they do not visit food assistance programs, the most common reasons were lack of transportation, not knowing where the programs are located, feeling ashamed or judged, believing that there are others who need the food more than they do, inconvenient distribution hours and locations, and more. (See page 9 of the full report for more data.)

Systemic racism and oppression contribute to higher rates of food insecurity (Source). In comparison to Lane County’s 2022 census population estimates, the following groups responded to our survey at higher rates: Indigenous Mexican and Central/South American individuals (1.7%), Native Americans (2.3%), Black/African Americans (6.7%), Hispanic/Latinx/o/a (10.9%), and individuals identifying as two or more races (11.6%). (See page 2 of Appendix A for more data.)

10% of respondents reported that their households do not speak English at home. 13.8% indicated Spanish as a primary language in their household. 81% of respondents’ households speak English at home, or English and another language.

Studies have shown that food insecurity and housing instability are highly correlated (Source). This survey found that:

  • 51% of survey respondents indicated that they rent their home.
  • 8% of respondents reported that they or someone in their household had been evicted or received an eviction notice in the past 12 months.
  • 9% of respondents reported that they are unhoused (living in a car, van, motel, emergency shelter, staying temporarily with friends or family, camping, or otherwise houseless).

The struggle to have enough food is made more difficult when basic housing needs are unmet:

  • 32% of respondents reported that a barrier to them having enough food is the amount of space food takes to store.
  • 23% of respondents reported that a barrier to them having enough food is that they don’t have a refrigerator or any other way to keep food from spoiling.
  • 19% of respondents reported that a barrier to them having enough food is not having the tools needed to prepare the food.
  • Other factors respondents identified as barriers to food security include: how long food lasts (50%), the availability of food at their local food pantry (34%), and the length of time it takes to prepare foods (32%).

The full report on the findings of the 2023 community survey can be viewed here.