Prevalence of food security unchanged since 2008

Published on: Sep 4, 2013

In a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the agency reported that the percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure remained essentially unchanged from 2011 to 2012 at 14.5% for 2012, or 17.6 million households.

The percentage of households with food insecurity in the severe range— described as very low food security—also was unchanged at 5.7%. Typically, households classified as having very low food security experienced the condition in 7 months of the year, for a few days in each of those months.

The prevalence of food insecurity has been essentially unchanged since 2008, the report noted.

In 2012, 49.0 million people lived in food-insecure households (see table 1A). They constituted 15.9% of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population and included 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children. About 8.3 million children (11.3%) lived in households in which one or more child was food insecure. About 12.4 million adults (5.3%) lived in households with very low food security, and 977,000 children (1.3%) lived in households with very low food security among children.

Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average 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. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and exurban areas around large cities.

Fifty-nine 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 (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC; and National School Lunch Program).

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the report underscores the importance of programs such as the SNAP that have helped keep food insecurity from rising, even during the economic recession.

"As the recovery continues and families turn to USDA nutrition programs for help to put good food on the table, this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program that would disqualify millions of Americans and threaten a rise in food insecurity. For our part, USDA will continue to deliver a strong nutrition program with an error rate that is at a historic low,” he said.

When the House returns to Capitol Hill the week of Sept. 9, it is assumed that one of the top agenda items will be a stand-alone nutrition bill with an estimated $40 billion in nutrition funding cuts over the next 10 years.