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Rural households account for nearly one-fifth of U.S. food-insecure households

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Some U.S. demographic groups are more likely than others to be food insecure—meaning they struggled at some time during the year to provide enough food for all their members. Understanding which groups are at increased risk of food insecurity is helpful for targeting assistance to those most in need, as is understanding the frequency of a group’s occurrence in the food-insecure population. A group could have a relatively low risk of food insecurity, but be so large that the members of the group who are experiencing food insecurity make up a large share of all food-insecure households. For example, while the prevalence of food insecurity in 2016 was relatively low for households in suburbs or exurbs of principal cities (9.5 percent), this group accounted for one-third of food insecure households. Rural households had a food insecurity rate of 15 percent in 2016 and accounted for 18 percent of food-insecure households—a higher share than their 14-percent share of all U.S. households. A version of this chart appears in "Understanding the Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Food Insecurity in the United States" in the September 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Single-parent households face higher food insecurity than married-couple households with children

Monday, November 13, 2017

In 2016, 12.3 percent of U.S. households were food insecure—they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of money or other resources for food. While the prevalence of food insecurity has been falling since 2008, some types of households had levels of food insecurity in 2016 at or above levels prior to the 2007-09 recession. For example, food insecurity among households with children headed by a single mother was 31.6 percent in 2016, higher than this group’s 2007 rate of 30.2 percent. By the same token, the prevalence of food insecurity among single father households was 21.7 percent in 2016, well above the 17 percent prevalence in 2006. Both single mother and single father households had higher food insecurity rates than married couple households with children, reflecting the generally lower incomes of single mother and single father households. Married couple households with children and households with children under the age of 6 had 2016 food insecurity prevalence rates similar to their pre-recession levels. This chart is part of a set of interactive charts on food insecurity trends on the ERS Web site.

Likelihood of low-income adults having a chronic disease increases as food security worsens

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ERS researchers recently used health, demographic, and food security information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey to examine the relationship between 10 chronic diseases in low-income working-age adults and the food security status of their households. The researchers controlled for a variety of household and individual characteristics that may be associated with health—such as income, health insurance, and marital status—to get a clearer picture of the strength of the association between food security status and health. In all cases, the likelihood of having the particular health condition increased as household food security worsened. Among the 5 most common of the 10 chronic diseases examined, predicted illness prevalences were 4.3 to 11.2 percentage points higher for low-income adults ages 19-64 in very low food secure households (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced) compared with those in high food secure households (households had no difficulty consistently obtaining adequate food). This chart appears in "Adults in Households With More Severe Food Insecurity Are More Likely To Have a Chronic Disease" in the October 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Just under 40 percent of low-income U.S. households were food insecure in 2016

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Poverty is one of the primary characteristics associated with food insecurity. While 12.3 percent of all U.S. households were food insecure in 2016, the prevalence of food insecurity among low-income households was much higher. Of the 13.9 million U.S. households with incomes below the Federal poverty line in 2016, 38.3 percent (5.3 million households) were food insecure. A food insecure household is one that has difficulty providing enough food for all its members because of a lack of money or other resources for food. Twenty-one percent of households with incomes below poverty (2.9 million households) had low food security and 17.3 percent (2.4 million households) experienced very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity where food intake of one or more household members was reduced and normal eating patterns disrupted. By comparison, 7.4 and 4.9 percent of all U.S. households had low and very low food security, respectively. The data for this chart come from Household Food Security in the United States in 2016, released September 6, 2017.

Prevalence of food insecurity in 2016 essentially unchanged from 2015

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In 2016, 87.7 percent of American households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining households (12.3 percent) were food insecure—meaning that they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. That level is essentially unchanged from 2015, but down from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011 and also continues the downward trend in food insecurity in recent years. Over a third of food insecure households (4.9 percent of U.S. households) experienced very low food security in 2016, meaning that at times the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food. The prevalence of very low food security was also essentially unchanged from 2015, but down from 5.6 percent in 2014. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2016, released September 6, 2017.

Over 80 percent of food-insecure households with school-age children receive free or reduced-price school lunches

Monday, August 21, 2017

As summer comes to a close, kids head back to school. For many low-income children and teens, returning to school also means returning to free or reduced-price lunches provided through USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In September 2016, 21.9 million children received free or reduced-price school lunches, including children who lived in food-insecure households—households that at times have difficulty putting enough food on the table due to limited resources. In 2015, 13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households. In 2014 and 2015, 84 percent of low-income food-insecure households with school-age children accessed free or reduced-price lunches through the NSLP, either in combination with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (46 percent), which provide food and nutrition assistance to low-income Americans, or alone (38 percent). An estimated 6 percent of low-income food-insecure households with school-age children received SNAP, but not free or reduced-price school lunches, and 10 percent did not participate in either program. This chart appears in "USDA’s National School Lunch Program Reduces Food Insecurity" in the August 2017 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Adults in households with more severe food insecurity are more likely to have a chronic disease

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ERS researchers recently examined the association of food security status with 10 chronic diseases in working-age adults living in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level. They looked at the prevalence of the chronic diseases across four levels of household food security, ranging from high food security (household had no problems or anxiety about consistently obtaining adequate food) to very low food security (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced). The researchers discovered that adults in households that were less food secure were significantly more likely to have one or more chronic diseases and the likelihood increased as food insecurity worsened. Low-income adults in households with very low food security were 40 percent more likely to have one or more of the chronic diseases examined than low-income adults with high food security. Moreover, the researchers found that food insecurity status was a stronger predictor of chronic illness than income for low-income working age adults. This chart appears in Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working Age Adults, released on July 31, 2017.

Forty-three percent of households with food-insecure children in 2014-15 had incomes below the Federal poverty line

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In 2014-15, 17.9 percent of U.S. households with children under the age of 18 were food insecure—they had difficulty putting enough food on the table for all their members. In about half of these households (8.6 percent of U.S. households with children), children were food insecure and experienced reduced dietary quality and food intake. Food insecurity is closely related to income as poor households are more likely to experience food insecurity. In 2014-15, 43 percent of households with food-insecure children had incomes below the Federal poverty line and one-quarter had incomes between the poverty line and 185 percent of the poverty line. Households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line may be eligible for programs like the free- or reduced-price National School Lunch Program. An ERS review of scientific research studies shows that participation in USDA school meals reduces food insecurity. However, about 19 percent of households with food-insecure children in 2014-15 may have been ineligible for such assistance. The data for this chart appear in the ERS report, Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs, released on June 20, 2017.

Natural gas price shocks increase the probability of food hardship

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poor households often lack the savings, assets, and income to protect themselves from unexpected increases in energy prices (called energy price shocks). A recent ERS study explored the relationship between energy price shocks and food hardship, including food insecurity—not having resources to acquire enough food for some or all household members. The study found that price shocks in gasoline, natural gas, and electricity increased the probability of households becoming food insecure and/or experiencing two other food hardship measures, with a larger response for low-income households compared to the average response for all households. Natural gas price shocks had the most consistent effects. Over 2000-14, annual price increases for natural gas ranged from 7 to 25 percent, and some years posted price declines. The study found that increases in natural gas prices above these typical increases, i.e. unexpected, large price rises estimated to average 41 percent above prior years’ prices, raised the probability of needing more money for food by 1.0 percentage point for all households in the data set and by 1.4 percentage points for low-income households. The unexpected, large price increases also increased the probability of food stress by 1.2 percentage points for all households and 2.2 percentage points for low-income households. Natural gas price shocks increased the probability of food insecurity by 2.3 percentage points for low-income households, more than double the response for all households. This chart appears in "Unexpected Hikes in Energy Prices Increase the Likelihood of Food Insecurity" from ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, July 2017.

Child food insecurity more common in households with school-age children than with children only under age 5

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Each year a portion of American households are food insecure—they struggle to afford enough food for all household members. In some of these households, children—along with adults—experience reductions in dietary quality and food intake. In 2014-15, children were food insecure in 8.6 percent of all U.S. households with children. Households that only included young children (0 to 4 years) had a lower prevalence of child food insecurity (4.3 percent) than those that included school-age children (8.1 to 10.3 percent depending on the age of the oldest child in the household). USDA child nutrition programs, such as WIC, the National School Lunch Program, and the School Breakfast Program, can be important sources of nutritious foods and meals for food-insecure children. A review of a number of scientific research studies shows that participation in USDA school meals reduces food insecurity and has positive effects on diet for those that do experience food insecurity. The data for this chart appear in the ERS report, Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs, released on June 20, 2017.

Who experiences very low food security?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Each year a portion of American households are food insecure—they struggle to afford enough food for all household members. Very low food security, the severe range of food insecurity, affected 5 percent of U.S. households in 2015. Members of households with very low food security reported cutting back on or skipping meals, and in some cases, going a whole day without eating. The prevalence of very low food security varies considerably across household characteristics. Single mother and single father households, women and men living alone, Black non-Hispanic and Hispanic headed households, households with incomes near or below poverty, and households in nonmetropolitan counties have rates of very low food security significantly above the national average. Rates were highest for households with incomes below the Federal poverty line—about 17 percent were very low food secure in 2015. This chart is drawn from a chart that appears in the ERS infographic, “What Is Very Low Food Security and Who Experiences It?,” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

What is “very low food security”?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Household food security statistics published annually by ERS are based on responses to survey questions in the annual Food Security Supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Respondents are asked about conditions and behaviors that characterize households when they are having difficulty meeting basic food needs. In a household classified as having “very low food security,” the food intake of its members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. In 2015, the 6.3 million U.S. households with very low food security reported the following specific conditions (along with other conditions): 96 percent reported that they had cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food; 95 percent reported that they had eaten less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food; and 67 percent reported that they had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food. This chart is drawn from a chart that appears in the ERS infographic, “What Is Very Low Food Security and Who Experiences It?,” in the December 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Food insecurity in households with children fell 2.6 percentage points in 2015

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The year 2015 marked the most significant annual improvement in food security since the Great Recession ended in 2009. In 2015, 16.6 percent of households with children were food insecure, down from 19.2 percent in 2014, meaning that 2.2 million fewer children in 2015 lived in households that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Members within a household may be affected differently by food insecurity. In about half of the food-insecure households with children in 2015, food insecurity was only reported among adults. But, in 7.8 percent of all U.S. households with children in 2015, both children and adults lacked consistent access to adequate, nutritious food at some time during the year. The 7.8-percent prevalence of food insecurity among children in 2015 was a decline from 9.4 percent in 2014 and down from a peak of 11.0 percent in 2008. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article, “Food Insecurity Among Children Declined to Pre-Recession Levels in 2015,” released November 7, 2016.

One in six U.S. households with children were food-insecure at some time in 2015

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In 2015, 16.6 percent of U.S. households with children (6.4 million households) were food insecure at some time during the year. In about half of these households, only adult household members were food insecure as the children had normal or near-normal diets and meal patterns. However, in 7.8 percent of households with children (3.0 million households) both children and adults were food insecure. In 0.7 percent of households with children (274,000 households), food insecurity among children was so severe that caregivers reported that children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. In some households with very low food security among children, only older children may have experienced the more severe effects of food insecurity while younger children were protected from those effects. In 2014, 1.1 percent of households with children reported very low food security among children. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, September 2015.

Food insecurity fell in 2015 for minority-headed households and households with children

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The prevalence of food insecurity in the United States declined from 14.0 percent of households in 2014 to 12.7 percent of households in 2015. Some types of households saw greater declines than others. Food insecurity for both Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics dropped from 2014 to 2015: the former declined from 26.1 to 21.5 percent, while the latter from 22.4 to 19.1 percent. Households with children younger than 18 saw a significant decline in food insecurity—from 19.2 percent in 2014 to 16.6 percent in 2015. Among these households, those headed by single mothers saw their food insecurity prevalence drop from 35.3 percent to 30.3 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity for households with children under 6 years old dropped from 19.9 to 16.9 percent as well. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, published September 2016.

In 2015, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

USDA measures food security status at the household level. Food-insecure households were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members due to insufficient money and other resources. Statistics on the number of persons residing in food-insecure households should be interpreted carefully. Within a food-insecure household, different household members may have been affected differently. Some members—particularly young children—may have experienced only mild effects of food insecurity or none at all, while adults were more severely affected. In 2015, 42.2 million people lived in food-insecure households. Out of these individuals, 14.6 million lived in households in the severe range of food insecurity, described as very low food security. Households with very low food security were food insecure to the extent that eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at some point during the year. The statistics for this chart are from Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, AP-072, released on September 7, 2015.

Prevalence of food insecurity in 2015 was lower than 2014, still above level before Great Recession

Thursday, September 8, 2016

In 2015, 87.3 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 12.7 percent (15.8 million households) were food insecure; they had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure declined from 14.0 percent in 2014. Additionally, in 2015, 5.0 percent of U.S. households (6.3 million households) had very low food security. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources. The rate, or prevalence, of very low food security in 2015 declined significantly from that in 2014 (5.6 percent). The 2015 declines in food insecurity and very low food security prevalence were the largest year-to-year changes in these rates since the two rates rose in 2008. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015 , released September 7, 2016.

One-quarter of food-insecure households visited food pantries in 2012

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Households having trouble putting adequate food on the table may rely on emergency food providers.? About 5 percent of U.S. households acquired emergency food from a food pantry in 2012, and less than 1 percent obtained meals from emergency kitchens.? Food-insecure households were more likely to use these assistance options.? Food-insecure households are households that were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members because they had insufficient money and other resources for food.? One-quarter of food-insecure households used food pantries and 3.1 percent used emergency kitchens.? An estimated 36 percent of households with very low food security visited food pantries and 5.7 percent visited emergency kitchens.? Households with very low food security are those that were food insecure to the extent that eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and their food intake reduced at some point during the year.? The statistics for this chart are from the Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2012, AP-061, released on September 4, 2013.

Food insecurity more common for households that include adults with disabilities at each income level

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Disability has emerged as one of the strongest known factors that affect household food insecurity. Food-insecure households are those that lack consistent access to adequate food for one or more household members. Because they face higher expenses for health care and adaptive equipment, households affected by disabilities require higher incomes to meet their basic needs than do households without members with disabilities. Even households that have incomes greater than three times the poverty level have a relatively high likelihood of being food insecure if they include an adult with a disability. In 2009-10, an estimated 13 percent of households that included a working-age adult not in the labor force due to a disability, and had incomes at least three times the Federal poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four), were food insecure. About 9 percent of households in that income range with an adult with a non-work-preventing disability were food insecure. In comparison, about 4 percent of households in that income range with no working-age adults with disabilities were food insecure. This chart appears in the May 2013 Amber Waves feature article, ?Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity.?

How long do food-insecure households remain food insecure?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

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