Editor's Pick 2013:
How long do food-insecure households remain food insecure?

A chart showing the households that were food insecure at least once during a 5 year period by the number of years of food insecurity.

Knowing how often and how long households are food insecure is important for understanding the extent and character of food insecurity and for maximizing the effectiveness of programs aimed at alleviating it. Food-insecure households are those that are unable, at times during the year, to acquire adequate food because they lack sufficient money and other resources. Two studies commissioned by ERS found spells of food insecurity to be generally of short duration. For example, one study found that half of households that were food insecure at some time during the 5-year study period experienced the condition in just a single year and only 6 percent were food insecure in all 5 years. However, the fact that households move in and out of food insecurity also means that a considerably larger number of households are exposed to food insecurity at some time over a period of several years than are food insecure in any single year. The statistics for this chart are from “Food Insecurity in U.S. Households Rarely Persists Over Many Years” in the June 2013 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published on Monday, June 17, 2013.

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