Food Security and Nutrition Assistance

ERS monitors the food security of U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey. While most U.S. households are food secure, a minority of U.S. households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning that their access to adequate food for active, healthy living is limited by lack of money and other resources. Some experience very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity where food intake of one or more members is reduced and normal eating patterns are disrupted. Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of USDA’s 15 food and nutrition assistance programs aimed at reducing food insecurity.

Size of farm is related to primary source of household income

The roughly 2.1 million family farms in the United States vary significantly in the level and sources of household income of their principal operators. In 2011, 60 percent of family farms had gross sales of less than $10,000 and negative average farm incomes, typically receiving all of their household income from off-farm sources. Family farms with gross sales of $10,000 to $249,999 represented 30 percent of family farms in 2011, and the households operating these farms earned, on average, positive returns from their operations. Ten percent of family farms in 2011 were considered to be commercial farms, grossing $250,000 or more. While receiving less in off-farm income than those operating small farms, commercial family farm households earned significantly more on the farms they operated. As a result, they had average household incomes more than twice the level of smaller farm households. This chart is from the Farm Household Well-being topic page on the ERS website.