17.9 million U.S. households with 50 million people were food insecure at some time in 2011. The latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show at least once during the year these households had insufficient money or other resources for food. 11 million of those households were able to cope with the situation by eating less varied diets, participating in federal food assistance programs or getting emergency food from community food pantries. 6.8 million of these households had “very low food security” where one or more members of the household had disrupted or reduced food intake because of insufficient money.
The study found 8.6 million children lived in food-insecure households however; children were often protected from substantial food reductions by the adults in the household. Households with children headed by a single woman had the highest prevalence of food insecurity, 36.8 percent. Just under 25 percent of households with children headed by a single man were food insecure. Hispanic and African-American households were more susceptible as well.
Food insecurity was highest for households located in principle cities of metropolitan areas. Regionally, the South had the highest rate, 16 percent with the West at 15.8 percent and the Midwest and Northeast at 13.5 percent each.
Because rates can vary considerably each year, a three-year average has been used to get a better picture of what is happening in individual states. From 2009 through 2011, Arkansas and Mississippi have the highest percentage of food-insecure households, 19.2 percent while North Dakota has the lowest, 7.8 percent. Along with Arkansas and Mississippi, California, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina were above the national average of households with food insecurity. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and the New England states all had food insecurity below the national average.
The USDA Economic Research Service says food insecurity declined from 11.9 percent of households in 2004 to 11 percent in 2005, 2006 and 2007. It jumped to 14.6 percent in 2008 and has held right around that level ever since.
The report comes out a day after USDA announced a record 46.7 million people received food stamps in June yet only 57 percent of food-insecure households say they participate in federal food and nutrition programs. The Food Research Action Center says things are actually getting worse this year as unemployment benefits run out.
Read the USDA report here: