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.
Federal spending on USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $182.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2021, 49 percent more than the previous high of $122.8 in FY 2020. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also reached a new high and increased by 44 percent from FY 2020 to FY 2021. Spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) increased by one percent. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs increased by 27 percent. Spending on two temporary programs created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program—accounted for 17 percent of the total in FY 2021.