Facts about poverty and hunger in America

Even in the world’s greatest food-producing nation, children and adults face poverty and hunger in every county across America. In 2017:

  • 40 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 12 million children.
  • A household that is food insecure has limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.
  • Households with children were more likely to be food insecure than those without children
  • 58% of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the major federal food assistance program — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps); the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (often called WIC)

Hunger in the United States

The estimated percentage of U.S households that were food insecure in 2016 was 12.3%. Though relatively unchanged from 12.7% in 2015, food insecurity has decreased from 14.9% in 2011. However, it is still above the estimated percentage of food insecurity of 11.1%, which existed pre-recession (2008) in U.S. households (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory, Singh, 2017).

  • In 2016, 87.7 % of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year.
  • In 2016, 12.3% of U.S. households (15.6 million households) were food insecure. Food insecure households are those where people had difficulty providing food to all members of the household due to limited resources.
  • 4.9% of U.S. households (6.1 million households) had very low food security. In households with very low food security, food intake is decreased, and normal eating patterns are disturbed for some members of the household at times during the year.
  • 8% of U.S. households with children (3.1 million households) were food insecure. These households were unable to provide adequate nutritious food for their children at some point during the year.
  • In 0.8% of households, both adults and children experienced very low food security. 298,000 households with children experienced very low food insecurity in 2016.
  • Food insecurity in households with children headed by a single parent, or households with single women or single men living alone, or households with a Black or Hispanic head of the family, or households in principal cities and non-metropolitan areas is higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the federal poverty limit.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity varies from state to state, ranging from 8.7% in Hawaii to 18.7% in Mississippi in 2014-2016. Based on data from 2016, the 10 hungriest states in the U.S. are Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina, Maine, and Oklahoma.
  • The average food-secure households spent 29% more on food than the average food-insecure household of the same size and composition. The estimates include food purchases made with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, benefits.
  • About 59% 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 nutrition assistance programs: SNAP, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and/or the National School Lunch Program.

(Source: Coleman-Jensen et al., 2017)

Work citation: https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america