What do you do with all those extra dollars you spend on groceries and gas?
Well, one simple solution could be to get rid of those things you hate and keep your costs low.
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, has found that households that keep a small, reliable food bank and provide enough free food to go with it are much less likely to have a family emergency than households that don’t.
The study, published this week in the journal Public Health Reports, surveyed more than 6,400 households across the country and found that food bank use was more common among those with fewer people, higher household incomes, and higher levels of food insecurity.
But for those who did have children, they found that a family food bank was the least likely to be used in the emergency situations.
“Our findings suggest that if households are not prepared to provide food in the event of a family crisis, it is likely they are prepared to use other resources,” the authors wrote.
That’s important, because it means families who do not have the financial resources to purchase food in large numbers are likely to suffer from hunger and food insecurity in their households.
The researchers also found that the people who did use a food bank were more likely to use it for the first time, as opposed to once.
“This finding is consistent with previous research on the role of food in crisis management,” they wrote.
“It is consistent across a wide range of countries and across social and demographic groups.”
The study comes as Congress is considering new legislation that would give states more flexibility to limit the amount of time that food banks are open.
The measure, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), would also allow food banks to use a $10-per-day limit on what they can accept as donations, a provision that would be included in legislation expected to be introduced in the coming months.
The ARRA also requires food banks not to accept any food that is donated to a third party, such as a restaurant or charity.
The proposed legislation would also bar states from requiring a food stamp recipient to provide a receipt for every food item they receive, an idea the Food and Nutrition Board, a non-profit group that studies food policy, has endorsed.
A similar bill in the House of Representatives was defeated in the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 217-211.
That legislation also would have made it a federal crime to refuse to give food to a person in need.
And if you’re wondering, Congress passed a bill in December to limit food stamps to people with a single-digit income, meaning that if you earn $25,000 and your food stamps are reduced to a $100 limit, you’ll be able to keep $10 a day.
“What we need is a more targeted approach that will work with all of the other options,” said Rebecca Panksepp, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a research group that focuses on food policy and policy research.
“One thing that we’re trying to do is use the ARRA as a tool to do that.”