AUSTIN, MINN. — Twenty-four percent of American adults said they have eaten less this year to ensure their children have enough food, while 8% said they have gone to bed hungry at least once in the past year due to lack of money for food, according to The 2009 Hormel Hunger Survey.

The survey cites not being able to feed one’s family as among the most distressing circumstances Americans can face — equal to spending a night in jail and far more distressing than getting fired from a job.

Thirty-eight percent of survey participants indicated if they were unable to buy enough food for themselves or their family, they would be very uncomfortable asking for food donations. The group most distressed about not being able to provide enough food for one’s family was the 18-44-year range, generally those most likely to have young children.

In this fourth annual Hormel Foods study on Americans’ experiences with and views on hunger, 52% said they personally know someone who has received food from a food bank or shelter this year. Eleven percent said someone in their household has received food from a food bank or shelter and 16% think it is at least somewhat likely someone in their immediate family will need food assistance in the next year. Those who have been forced to seek food donations, 51% said they would most likely say the reason was unemployment.

Sixty-nine percent said they believe the problem of hunger has increased in the U.S. during the past year, and women are more likely than men to have this sentiment (76% vs. 61%). Eighty-seven percent are concerned about hunger in the U.S., including 46% who said they are very concerned about it.

Most people have donated both food (75%) and money (61%) to help combat the problem of hunger in the U.S., and three in 10 have done volunteer work. Eighty percent agree it is not hopeless to try to help eradicate hunger around the world and nearly two-thirds (65%) somewhat agree that Americans have a responsibility to help people in other countries who do not have enough food to eat.

Last year, Hormel said it made cash, in-kind and equipment donations totaling $3.9 million, and donated 81,000 lbs. of protein, providing charitable meals for 430,000 people.