AUSTIN, Minn. -- A majority of Americans believe that the hunger problem in the United States is increasing and that it already is as bad or worse than in other developed countries, according to "The Hormel Hunger Survey: A National Perspective," which was conducted by Hormel Foods Corporation in conjunction with America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network.

The survey, which gauges Americans' views on hunger in the United States, found that 61 percent of respondents to the survey said the hunger problem is increasing, 28 percent said it is remaining the same and only 11 percent believe the problem is decreasing. Only half of those surveyed think the United States is at least somewhat successful at ensuring that people in this country do not go hungry.

In addition, 40 percent of Americans believe that hunger is a larger problem in the United States than in other developed countries, and 36 percent believe it is roughly the same. Only 24 percent believe hunger is a larger problem in Canada or in Western European countries than in the United States.

Many respondents to the survey had first-hand experience with hunger. One in 10 (11 percent) said they or someone in their immediate family has gone to bed hungry in the past month because they could not afford enough food. One in five (20 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 lack of money or food. Of those who have not received food from a food bank or shelter, another 30 percent think they too may need this kind of help due to rising costs or other changes in circumstances.

"These statistics clearly demonstrate broad-based concern among Americans about this issue and underscore the need for government, the private sector and charitable organizations, such as America's Second Harvest, to remain focused on delivering short- and long-term solutions," said Jeff Ettinger, president and CEO of Hormel Foods. "We hope this survey sheds some additional light on this national problem, and that it fuels further work toward a solution."

Hormel Foods is an "Official Protein Sponsor" of America's Second Harvest and in 2006 has provided nearly $1 million in financial, product and program support for the organization's effort to end hunger nationally.

Hormel Foods also is hosting the first-ever Minnesota Hunger Summit on Dec. 4 in Minneapolis to bring together relevant groups to discuss the problem from multiple perspectives, and to help those groups work together to end hunger in Minnesota.

"These survey findings demonstrate that the average American understands that hunger is a real and pervasive problem in our country," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of America's Second Harvest. "We hope that everyone in a position to help is listening - and that they will work with us to end hunger in America. These survey results will be very helpful in supporting our ongoing efforts."

"The Hormel Hunger Survey: A National Perspective" was conducted for Hormel Foods in August 2006 by the research firm Penn, Schoen & Berland and contains a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percent. The study was commissioned by Hormel Foods to increase the understanding of issues surrounding hunger.

"Addressing hunger is a long-standing corporate initiative for Hormel Foods, and we thought it was important for us and America's Second Harvest to understand how the public perceives the issue, so we can work to find a solution," Ettinger said.

When asked about causes and solutions for the problem of hunger, the majority of Americans surveyed said hunger is an economic problem, and that better education and job programs are the best solution.

More specifically:

  • Almost two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) believe that hunger in America is very important, roughly similar to illiteracy and natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • More than four out of five (86 percent) believe those who cannot work or earn enough money for food should be helped by others.
  • Three out of four (74 percent) believe it is important to feed hungry Americans, even if the root causes of poverty and hunger cannot be fixed.
  • Two-thirds (64 percent) feel the government should make hunger a higher priority, but, when pressed, a slight majority (57 percent) believe the best way to reduce hunger is for well-off individuals and companies to increase their generosity.
  • Low wages or income (20 percent), the economy and unemployment (15 percent), lack of government support (12 percent) and rising costs (9 percent) are cited as the main causes of hunger.

  • The survey also looked separately at perceptions of mid-level managers in Fortune 2000 companies. In general, the business audience had a more positive perception of the issue and of efforts to address it.

    More specifically:

  • A majority of the business population (68 percent) feel the United States has been successful at preventing hunger compared to 50 percent of the general population.
  • More than half (54 percent) of the business population thinks the hunger problem will be solved in their children's lifetimes compared to 35 percent of the general population.
  • 51 percent of the business population is very likely to volunteer or donate money to the hunger cause in the United States compared 44 percent of the general population.
  • Business people are more likely to believe the hunger problem can be solved by applying more money to it (51 percent vs. 35 percent of Americans).
  • Most business people (76 percent) agree that there are some people in America who cannot work or earn enough to buy food and should be helped by others.
  • More business people (39 percent) than general consumers (26 percent) think that providing free food to Americans discourages them from taking responsibility for themselves, but like consumers, a majority of business people (61 percent) think it is important we feed hungry Americans even if the root causes of hunger and poverty cannot be fixed.

  • Margin of error for the business audience is +/- 8.56 percent.

    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.

    Hormel Foods Corp., based in Austin, Minn., is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer-branded food and meat products.

    SOURCE: Hormel Foods Corporation via Business Wire.