by Bob Smietana
NASHVILLE — As the holidays approach, food pantries across the country will collect donations to help those in need.
Nearly one in four Americans (22 percent) say their family has turned to a church-run food pantry in the past for help, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
“Churches may have the reputation for serving donuts, coffee and potluck dinners to their members,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. “But they also are supplying food for many people in need.”
The online survey of 1,158 Americans was conducted in September. They were asked to respond to the statement: “My family has received food from a church-run food pantry in the past.”
Americans from a wide range of backgrounds said yes.
That includes one in four churchgoers (26 percent) along with one in five (18 percent) of those who never attend services.
One in three African Americans (37 percent) and evangelicals (35 percent) say their family has received help. So do nearly three in 10 (28 percent) of those without a college degree.
About one in four Hispanic Americans (25 percent) and one in five (19 percent) of whites say they had turned to a church-run food pantry.
Those in the West (28 percent) were more likely to say they’d received help than those in the Northeast (17 percent) or South (20 percent).
Older Americans (11 percent) and those with college degrees (13 percent) were among the least likely to say yes.
Some 50 million Americans have trouble putting food on the table, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks. A similar number of people received food stamps in 2013, according to the USDA.
“There is an abundance of food in the U.S. but plenty of people still go hungry,” McConnell said. “Many churches respond by faithfully following the biblical principle of being open-handed to the poor and needy by maintaining well-stocked food pantries to share.”
Methodology: The online survey of adult Americans was conducted September 17-18. A sample of an online panel reflecting the adult population of the U.S. was invited to participate. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and income to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,158 online surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from this panel does not exceed +2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.