How Hungry is America?

One in Six Households Report Inability to Afford Enough Food, Survey Finds

Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202-640-1118
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Download How Hungry is America? FRAC’s National, State and Local Index of Food Hardship (pdf)

Washington, D.C. – April 7, 2015 – While Congress threatens huge cuts in  funding for the country’s safety net programs that keep or lift people out of poverty, new data released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) show that millions of Americans still struggle to afford enough food for their households. How Hungry is America?, FRAC’s latest look at food hardship, finds that one in six Americans (17.2 percent) said in 2014 that there had been times over the past 12 months that they didn’t have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed.

“Tens of millions of people are still struggling, despite an improving economy,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “Given these data, it is unimaginable that many in Congress would even propose cuts to proven and effective programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals programs and other supports that help ensure millions of children, seniors, veterans, working adults, and people with disabilities get the nutrition they need.”

The report finds that hunger exists in every state in the country. While Mississippi may have the worst rate among states, with one in four households reporting food hardship, still the “best” state, North Dakota, has one in eleven households struggling with food hardship. Ninety-eight of the largest 100 surveyed Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) have at least one in eight (12.5 percent or more) households reporting food hardship.

Nationally, the food hardship rate reflects the economy’s weakness for many Americans. The food hardship number skyrocketed in late 2008 and early 2009 as the recession deepened, and remained relatively high as the nation slowly recovered. Only in this past year have the numbers almost returned to early 2008 levels. Still, that means that nearly one in six households are reporting food hardship, a fact that is unacceptable, says FRAC.

“There was too much hunger before the recession, and that is not a level to which the nation should aspire,” added Weill. “These survey findings represent an economic and political failure that is leaving tens of millions of Americans struggling to afford food. Doubling down on this harm would be a national nightmare. Congress and the President must reject cuts to nutrition programs and other programs that benefit low-income people, and build a stronger safety net.”

How Hungry is America? contains data throughout 2014 for every state and (for 2013 and 2014 combined) 100 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas (MSA). The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing hundreds of households daily since January 2008. FRAC has analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” A “yes” answer to this question is considered to signal that the household experienced food hardship.

The full report is available at www.frac.org.

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