Hormel Foods Study Finds Americans Believe Hunger Is Worsening, in Part Due to Increasing Food and Fuel Prices, Ethanol Use

17 Percent of American Families Have Received Food Donations; 29 Percent of Those Who Haven’t Believe They May Have To

AUSTIN, Minn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans believe the U.S. hunger problem has worsened in the last year, in part due to rising food and fuel prices, according to The Hormel Hunger Survey 2007: A National Perspective, conducted by Hormel Foods Corporation (NYSE:HRL) in conjunction with America’s Second Harvest – The Nation’s Food Bank Network.

The survey, which gauges Americans’ experiences and views on hunger, found that consumers largely consider rising food and fuel costs and a worsening economy to be some of the factors contributing to a hungry America. More than half (63 percent) of U.S. consumers blame worsening economic conditions, and in the past year, nearly two-thirds of consumers have had to cut back on their food purchases due to higher food prices.

In addition to the economy and food prices, when prompted, Americans make a connection between the shift to increased use of ethanol as a fuel and higher food prices. Sixty percent of the population agrees that ethanol use is increasing the cost of corn, and thus food, and that it is at least part of the reason that more Americans are going hungry. More than half (53 percent) of the general public say governmental subsidies to make ethanol from corn will help in reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. But almost as many (47 percent) oppose these subsidies because they result in higher food prices for consumers.

The survey also found that many Americans have had first-hand experiences with hunger. More than one in 10 (13 percent) American consumers – either the respondent or an immediate family member – has gone to bed hungry in the past month because of their inability to pay for food. And nearly one in five (17 percent) said they personally, or someone in their immediate family, has received food from a food bank, shelter or other charitable organization in the past year because of their inability to pay for food. Of those who have not received food from a food bank or shelter, another 29 percent think they, too, may need this kind of help due to rising costs or other changes in circumstances.

More than half (52 percent) of consumers think the United States is failing at ensuring that people in this country do not go hungry. “Ending hunger is not only a moral imperative, it is an attainable goal, and Hormel Foods and its partners are committed to ending hunger in the United States,” said Jeffrey Ettinger, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Hormel Foods. “For 116 years, Hormel Foods has been actively involved with its community, investing time, money, products and energy. This research represents our passion to understand the root of the problem and our commitment to ending hunger in America.”

Half of Americans say that economic conditions have made their financial situation worse during the past year, compared to only 8 percent who said it had improved, and the rest said unchanged. Consequently, a majority (53 percent) say they are having more trouble paying their bills, and only 13 percent are having less trouble. Even more striking, more than four out of five say that prices for basic items have increased faster than their income during the past year.

Almost all Americans acknowledge that the prices they pay for food have risen during the past year, with half saying they have gone up a lot. As a result, six out of ten Americans say they have had to cut back on the quantity or quality of food they buy.

This is the second year Hormel Foods has commissioned a survey to gauge Americans’ perceptions of hunger. Comparing the results from 2006 and 2007, Americans have grown more concerned about hunger, but also more pessimistic about their own financial situations and the possibility of finding a long-term solution. More specifically:

  • Seventy-three percent of Americans now consider hunger to be very important, compared to 64 percent in 2006.
  • Fewer Americans believe that U.S. hunger will be solved in their lifetime, with 14 percent considering it likely in 2007, compared with 19 percent in 2006.

While consumers agree that hunger is a very important issue, many respondents are conflicted about who is responsible for stopping hunger in America. More specifically:

  • Similar to last year’s findings, more than eight out of 10 (85 percent in 2007 and 87 percent in 2006) Americans say those who are unable to earn enough money for food should be helped by others.
  • Consumers (72 percent in 2007 and 74 percent in 2006) continue to believe that it is necessary to feed hungry Americans, even if the overall problem of poverty and hunger cannot be fixed.
  • Similar to 2006, consumers (64 percent in 2007 and 65 percent in 2006) believe that money is not the sole solution for solving the hunger problem.
  • The majority of respondents, 63 percent in 2007 and 64 percent in 2006, believe the U.S. government must make solving the hunger issue a higher priority.
  • Americans are divided in regard to the best way to reduce hunger. Fifty-two percent believe the best way to reduce hunger would be for companies and wealthy individuals to be more generous. Forty-eight percent believe the best way to reduce hunger would be for the federal government to fund programs for those who are hungry.

“There is no one solution to ending hunger in America,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest. “By sharing responsibility and taking ownership of the problem, America’s Second Harvest and our partners are making great strides in the fight to end hunger. This survey exemplifies the partnership we have with Hormel Foods, and we are looking forward to using these findings to support our ongoing efforts.”

In addition to this research, Hormel Foods is hosting an Ohio Hunger Summit on Oct. 29 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where leaders from the for-profit, non-profit and legislative communities will gather to discuss how they can better collaborate to end hunger in America. The Ohio Hunger Summit is the second hunger summit sponsored by Hormel Foods. The first was held in Minnesota in 2006, and future events are planned in coordination with the company’s anti-hunger efforts.

The Hormel Hunger Survey: A National Perspective was conducted for Hormel Foods in September 2007 by the research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland and contains a margin of error of +/- 3.45 percent. The study was commissioned by Hormel Foods to increase the understanding of issues surrounding hunger.

About Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minn., is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer-branded food and meat products, many of which are among the best known and trusted in the food industry. The company leverages its extensive expertise, innovation and high competencies in pork and turkey processing and marketing to bring quality, value-added brands to the global marketplace. In each of the past eight years, Hormel Foods was named one of “The 400 Best Big Companies in America” by Forbes magazine. The company enjoys a strong reputation among consumers, retail grocers, foodservice and industrial customers for products highly regarded for quality, taste, nutrition, convenience and value. For more information, visit www.hormelfoods.com.

About America’s Second Harvest

America’s Second Harvest — The Nation’s Food Bank Network is the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the country with a Network of more than 200 Member food banks and food – rescue programs serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The America’s Second Harvest Network secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually; and supports approximately 50,000 local charitable agencies operating more than 94,000 programs including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs, and Kids Cafes. Last year, the America’s Second Harvest Network provided food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people in the United States, including nearly 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors. For more on America’s Second Harvest, please visit www.secondharvest.org.