Nearly one in four Americans – 22 per cent – have turned to a church-run food pantry – known as food banks in the UK – at some point for help, according to a new survey from LifeWay Christian Research.
The online survey of 1,158 people was conducted in September and is claimed to be accurate to within 2.9 per cent. Participants were asked to respond to the statement: "My family has received food from a church-run food pantry in the past."
One in four churchgoers said they had, compared to one in five (18 per cent) of non-churchgoers.
More than one in three African Americans (37 per cent) and evangelicals (35 per cent) say their family has received help. So do almost three in 10 (28 per cent) of those without a college degree.
One in four Hispanic Americans (25 per cent) and one in five (19 per cent) of whites say they had received help.
Those in the West (28 per cent) were more likely to say they had received help than those in the Northeast (17 per cent) or South (20 per cent).
Older Americans (11 per cent) and those with college degrees (13 per cent) were among the least likely to say yes.
Vice-president of LifeWay Research Scott McConnell said: "Churches may have the reputation for serving donuts, coffee, and pot luck dinners to their members. But they also are supplying food for many people in need."
He added: "There is an abundance of food in the US, but plenty of people still go hungry. 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."
Around 50 million Americans have trouble putting food on the table, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks.