Stay Connected

Follow ERS on Twitter
Subscribe to RSS feeds
Subscribe to ERS e-Newsletters.aspx
Listen to ERS podcasts
Read ERS blogs at USDA
Image: Food Nutrition & Assistance

Key Statistics & Graphics

This page provides the following information:

Food Security Status of U.S. Households in 2014

Food secure—These households had access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

  • 86.0 percent (106.6 million) of U.S. households were food secure throughout 2014.
  • Essentially unchanged from 85.7 percent in 2013.
Chart data

16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

Food insecure—At times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security.

  • 14.0 percent (17.4 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2014.
  • Essentially unchanged from 14.3 percent in 2013.

Low food security—These food-insecure households obtained enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reducing food intake by using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries.

  • 8.4 percent (10.5 million) of U.S. households had low food security in 2014.
  • Essentially unchanged from 8.7 percent in 2013.

Very low food security—In these food-insecure households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. 

  • 5.6 percent (6.9 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2014.
  • Unchanged from 5.6 percent in 2013.

Food Security Status of U.S. Households with Children in 2014

Among U.S. households with children under age 18:

  • 80.8 percent were food secure in 2014.
  • In 9.8 percent of households with children, only adults were food insecure.
  • Both children and adults were food insecure in 9.4 percent of households with children (3.7 million households).
  • Although children are usually protected from substantial reductions in food intake even in households with very low food security, nevertheless, in about 1.1 percent of households with children (422,000 households), one or more child also experienced reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns at some time during the year.
Chart data

 16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

For more information, see the ERS report, Food Insecurity in Households With Children: Prevalence, Severity, and Household Characteristics, 2010-11.

How Many People Lived in Food-Insecure Households?

In 2014:

  • 48.1 million people lived in food-insecure households.
  • 12.4 million adults lived in households with very low food security.
  • 7.9 million children lived in food-insecure households in which children, along with adults, were food insecure.
  • 914,000 children (1.2 percent of the Nation's children) lived in households in which one or more child experienced very low food security.

For more information, see Food Insecurity in the U.S.: Frequency of Food Insecurity.

Food Insecurity by Household Characteristics

The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably among household types. Rates of food insecurity were higher than the national average (14.0 percent) for the following groups:

  • All households with children (19.2 percent),
  • Households with children under age 6 (19.9 percent),
  • Households with children headed by a single woman (35.3 percent),
  • Households with children headed by a single man (21.7 percent),
  • Black, non-Hispanic households (26.1 percent),
  • Hispanic households (22.4 percent), and
  • Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (33.7 percent; the Federal poverty line was $24,008 for a family of four in 2014).
Chart data

16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

  • Overall, households with children had a substantially higher rate of food insecurity (19.2 percent) than those without children (11.7 percent). Among households with children, married-couple families had the lowest rate of food insecurity (12.4 percent).
  • The prevalence of food insecurity was highest for households located in nonmetropolitan areas (17.1 percent), intermediate for those in principal cities of metropolitan areas (15.7 percent), and lowest in suburban and other metropolitan areas outside principal cities (11.8 percent).
  • Regionally, the food insecurity rate was higher in the South (15.1 percent) than in the Northeast (13.3 percent), Midwest (13.8 percent), and West (13.1 percent).

For interactive data visualizations, see Interactive Chart: Food Security Trends and Interactive Chart: Food Security Characteristics.

Very Low Food Security by Household Characteristics

The prevalence of very low food security in various types of households followed a pattern similar to that observed for food insecurity overall. Very low food security was more prevalent than the national average (5.6 percent) for the following groups:

  • Households with children headed by a single woman (12.8 percent) or a single man (7.0 percent),
  • Women living alone and men living alone (7.2 percent each),
  • Black, non-Hispanic households (10.4 percent),
  • Hispanic households (6.9 percent),
  • Households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line (14.5 percent), and
  • Households located outside metropolitan areas (7.3 percent).
Chart data

16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

Trends in Prevalence Rates

The prevalence of food insecurity was essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2014 and from 2012 to 2014. That is, the changes were within the range that could have resulted from sampling variation. The cumulative decline from 2011 (14.9 percent) to 2014 (14.0 percent) was statistically significant. Over the previous decade, food insecurity increased from 10.5 percent in 2000 to nearly 12 percent in 2004, declined to 11 percent in 2005-07, then increased in 2008 (14.6 percent), remaining essentially unchanged at that level in 2009 and 2010.

The prevalence of very low food security was essentially unchanged from 2011 and 2012 (5.7 percent in both years) to 2013 and 2014 (5.6 percent in both years). The prevalence of very low food security was also 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the prevalence of very low food security had declined to 5.4 percent. Prior to 2008, the prevalence of very low food security had increased from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 3.9 percent in 2004, and remained essentially unchanged through 2007.

The year-to-year deviations from a consistent downward trend between 1995 and 2000 include a substantial 2-year cycle that is believed to result from seasonal effects on food security prevalence rates. The CPS food security surveys over this period were conducted in April in odd-numbered years and August or September in even-numbered years. Measured prevalence of food insecurity was higher in the August/September collections, suggesting a seasonal-response effect. In 2001 and later years, the surveys were conducted in early December, which avoids seasonal effects in interpreting annual changes.

Chart data

16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

State-Level Prevalence of Food Insecurity

Prevalence rates of food insecurity varied considerably from State to State. Data for 3 years, 2012-14, were combined to provide more reliable statistics at the State level. Estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during this 3-year period ranged from 8.4 percent in North Dakota to 22.0 percent in Mississippi; estimated prevalence rates of very low food security ranged from 2.9 percent in North Dakota to 8.1 percent in Arkansas.

Chart data

16x16 - Excel Download chart data in Excel format

This section is based on the publication Household Food Security in the United States in 2014.

Last updated: Tuesday, September 08, 2015

For more information contact: Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Christian Gregory, and Matthew Rabbitt