More than 42.2 million Americans lived in households that were struggling against hunger in 2015, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service. The 2015 numbers represent a significant decline from 2014, with the rate declining from 15.4 to 13.4 percent.
“These numbers of food-insecure households are better than the last few years, but they are still above pre-recession levels,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). “We know what it takes to end hunger in this country, so there can be no more excuses. More must be done to raise employment rates and wages, and to protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs to ensure more low-income Americans get the nutrition they need for their health and well-being.
In virtually every respect, these hunger data reflect the struggles that tens of millions of Americans – and especially people of color, families with children, rural families and Southern families – are having to avoid deep hardship in their lives.”
One key positive development is that the rate of households with food insecure children did drop below pre-recession levels and in fact is the lowest in any year since this survey began in 1998.
Other findings from the USDA report include:
- The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with children headed by single women or single men, women and men living alone, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households.
- The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger – “very low food security” – was 4.6 percent in 2015.
- The number of children living in food insecure households in 2015 improved by more than 2 million, declining from 15.3 million in 2014 to 13.1 million in 2015, with the rate among children declining from 20.9 percent to 17.9 percent.
- Households in more rural areas are experiencing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (15.4 percent compared to 12.2 percent), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (20.5 percent compared to 15.9 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (6.1 percent compared to 4.9 percent).
- The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from state to state from 2013-2015, ranging from 8.5 percent in North Dakota to 20.8 percent in Mississippi.
- FRAC outlines recommendations for addressing food hardship, including boosting jobs, wages, and public programs for struggling families, such as benefits and eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and child nutrition programs. These and other recommendations are described in FRAC’s Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.
About the USDA report
The United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates since 1995 of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. The report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity.
The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States.