Food Insecurity at 15%

At times during 2011, 15% of Americans were “food insecure,” according the latest USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) report on “Household Food Security in the United States in 2011.”

While the percent of U.S. households that were food insecure remained essentially unchanged from 2010 to 2011, the percentage with food insecurity in the severe range increased to 5.7%. Food insecurity is defined as when household access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. Key items in the report include:

·      Children were food insecure at times during the year in 10% of households with children (3.9 million households), essentially unchanged from 9.8% in 2010. 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% of households with children (374,000 households) in 2011, unchanged from 2010.

·      For households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black and Hispanic households, rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and other outlying areas around large cities.

·      Typically, households classified as having very low food security experienced the condition in seven months of the year, for a few days in each of those months.

·      The typical food-secure household spent 24% 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 called food stamps).

·      Fifty-seven 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.

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