Number of food insecure households declining

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The estimated percentage of US households that were food insecure in 2015 declined significantly to 12.7 percent from 14 percent in 2014, the US Dept. of Agriculture said Sept. 7. The 2015 percentage continued a downward trend from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011 but was still above the pre-recessionary level of 11.1 percent in 2007.

Food insecurity refers to American households whose access to food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. In 2015, 15.8 million households were food insecure and had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all family members.

Children were food insecure at times during the year in 7.8 percent of US households with children (3 million households), which was down significantly from 9.4 percent in 2014.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

“Today’s report marks a significant benchmark in our battle against hunger and food insecurity, underscoring in clear terms that our nation’s families and children are better off today than they were when the president took office in 2009,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In fact, today’s report points to the lowest figures on record for food insecurity among children, a major achievement in our country’s efforts to ensure every child has a safer, healthier future filled with unlimited opportunity.”

The 2015 survey from the USDA’s Economic Research Service covered 39,948 households comprising a representative sample of the US civilian population of 125 million households. Among food-insecure households in the survey, 59 percent reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch Program.

Estimated prevalence of food insecurity by state in 2013-15 ranged from 8.5 percent in North Dakota to 20.8 percent in Mississippi. Data for three years were combined to provide more reliable state-level statistics.

The 2015 survey also contained data on very low feed security, which the USDA said occurred when the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.

In 2015, the estimated percentage of US households with very low food security fell significantly to 5 percent, or 6.3 million households, from 5.6 percent in 2014. Both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 0.7 percent of households with children (274,000 households), which was a statistically significant decline from 1.1 percent in 2014. 

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