Food insecurity a lingering effect of recession

by Jay Sjerven
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Jay Sjerven 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Whether measured by households or by individuals, food insecurity in the United States declined in 2015, as it had in the previous three years, according to the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture. At the same time, the percentage and number of both households and individuals who were food insecure in 2015 remained well above pre-recession levels, reflecting how disruptive the 2007-09 economic crisis was and how difficult it has proved to be for the nation to emerge from its shadow.

In its annual report on household food security in the United States issued Sept. 7, the ERS indicated the percentage of US households that were food insecure in 2015 dropped to 12.7 percent from 14 percent in 2014. The decline was termed significant and marked a continuation in the downtrend in food insecurity from the recent high of 14.9 percent of households in 2011. At the same time, the prevalence of food insecurity in 2015 still was above the pre-recession level of 11.1 percent of all households in 2007.

When measured in individuals, 42,238,000 people were food insecure in the United States in 2015, down 5,897,000, or 12 percent, from 48,135,000 in 2014. The overall U.S. population in 2015 was 316,161,000 compared with 313,305,000 in 2014.

The ERS defines food-insecure households as those that report that at times during a year they were unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.

Food-insecure households are subdivided into those with low food security and those with very low food security. Households with low food security avoided substantial reductions or disruptions in food intake, in many cases by relying on a few basic foods and reducing variety in their diets. Households with very low food security are those that indicated eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and their food intake reduced, at least some time during a year, because they could not afford enough food.

The ERS indicated there were 125,164,000 households in the United States in 2015 compared with 124,044,000 households in 2014. The number of food-insecure households in 2015 was 15,849,000, or 12.7 percent of the total, compared with 17,426,000, or 14 percent of the total, in 2014. The number of households with low food security in 2015 was 9,540,000, or 7.7 percent of the total, compared with 10,488,000, or 8.4 percent of all households, in 2014. The number of households with very low food security in 2015 totaled 6,309,000, or 5 percent of the nation’s total, compared with 6,938,000 households, or 5.6 percent of the nation’s total, in 2014.

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