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.

Children accounted for 44 percent of SNAP participants in 2016

In fiscal 2016, children accounted for 44.1 percent of all SNAP participants, nearly the same as in fiscal 2015 (44.0 percent). Children younger than five made up 13.4 percent of participants in fiscal 2016, while school-age children made up 30.7 percent. Adults age 18-59 represented 44.1 percent of SNAP participants in fiscal 2016, compared with 45.4 percent in fiscal 2015. Adults age 60 and older's share of the SNAP caseload grew from 10.6 percent in fiscal 2015 to 11.8 percent in fiscal 2016.

Participation in SNAP varies across States, reflecting differences in need and program policies

In fiscal 2016, SNAP served an average of 44.2 million people per month, or 13.7 percent of Americans. Southeastern States have a particularly high share of residents receiving SNAP benefits, with participation rates of 15 to 19.5 percent. In fiscal 2016, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, and New Hampshire were the only States with 8 percent or less of their populations receiving SNAP benefits.