An estimated 14.0 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2014, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.3 percent in 2013 was not statistically significant. The USDA issued this information in a new report released last week; Household Food Security in the United States in 2014 by Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh.
Most U.S. households have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living—they are food secure. But a minority of American households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning that their access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increase food security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. USDA also monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey sponsored and analyzed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of the Federal food assistance programs, as well as that of private food assistance programs and other government initiatives aimed at reducing food insecurity.
Here’s a summary of what the report found:
The estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure remained essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2014; however, food insecurity was down from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011. The percentage of households with food insecurity in the severe range—described as very low food security—was unchanged.
- In 2014, 86.0 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 14.0 percent (17.4 million households) were food insecure. Food-insecure house- holds (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The changes from 2013 (14.3 percent) and 2012 (14.5 percent) to 2014 were not statistically significant; however, the cumulative decline from 14.9 percent in 2011 was statistically significant.
- In 2014, 5.6 percent of U.S. households (6.9 million households) had very low food security, unchanged from 5.6 percent in 2013. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
- Children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.4 percent of U.S. households with children (3.7 million households), essentially unchanged from 9.9 percent in 2013. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
- While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 1.1 percent of households with children (422,000 households) in 2014. The changes from both 2013 and 2012 were not statistically significant.
- For households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, women living alone, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households, the rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average. In addition, the food insecurity rate was highest in rural areas, moderate in large cities, and lowest in suburban and exurban areas around large cities.
- The typical (median) food-secure household spent 26 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program).
Sixty-one percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch Program).
The defining characteristic of “very low food security” is that, at times during the year, the food intake of household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food. In the 2014 survey, households classified as having very low food security (representing an estimated 6.9 million households nationwide) reported the following specific conditions:
- 98% reported having worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more.
- 97% reported that the food they bought just did not last and they did not have money to get more.
- 97% reported that they could not afford to eat balanced meals.
- 96% reported that an adult had cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food.
- 89% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.
- 96% reported that they had eaten less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food.
- 69% reported that they had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food.
- 30% reported that an adult did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.
- 24% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.
Rates of food insecurity were higher than the national average for the following groups:
- All households with children (19.2 percent)
- Households with children under age 6 (19.9 percent)
- Households with children headed by a single woman (35.3 percent) or a single man (21.7 percent) and other households with children (24.4 percent)
- Households headed by Black, non-Hispanics (26.1 percent), and Hispanics (22.4 percent)
- Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (33.7 percent
Every Child Matters and many other organizations across the country are calling on Congress and the President to support strategies that increase employment and wage growth for America’s families and to invest more in federally-funded programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs.
The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn. The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is due for reauthorization by September 30, 2015.
You can help too! Congress is back from August recess – Take these actions as Child Nutrition Reauthorization heats up. Senate markup scheduled for Sept. 17th.
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