Poverty Data Highlight the Need for a Strong Safety Net

The U.S. household poverty rate decreased in 2016, according to today’s Census Bureau annual release of income, poverty, and health insurance data. The poverty rate went from 13.5 percent in 2015 to 12.7 percent in 2016, a decline that returns the poverty rate (after almost a decade) to the statistical equivalent of the pre-recession rate in 2007.

Read FRAC's statement

Quick Facts

  • More than 41.2 million Americans live in households that struggle against hunger.
  • Households  in more rural areas face considerably deeper struggles with hunger than those inside metropolitan areas.
  • One in six households with children cannot buy enough food for their families.
  • 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) lived in poverty in 2015, down from 14.8 percent from the year before. This is the largest drop in poverty since 1999.
  • 19.7 percent of children under 18 lived in poverty in 2015.
  • The 2015 poverty rate was 24.1 percent for the Black population and 21.4 percent for the Hispanic population.

What You Need to Know About Hunger in America

  • Who is hungry?
    Over 41 million Americans live in households that struggle against hunger. These are working families struggling to make ends meet, our veterans, people with disabilities, seniors, and the most vulnerable population — children.
  • Solutions for hunger and poverty
  • Public attitudes toward hunger
     The survey says…Americans look to government to solve hunger
    Americans believe that hunger is an extremely serious issue and look to the government for leadership to solve it.

    About the Survey:
    This bipartisan survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican firm, to gauge Americans’ attitudes and perceptions of hunger, and follows up on research (pdf) the two organizations commissioned in 2011.  A total of 1,558 adults across the United States age 18 and over were interviewed online from July 29 through August 6, 2014.

Solutions Exist to End Hunger & Poverty

Hunger in America is a serious issue that requires a serious response. When there is talk about improving opportunities for all Americans through education, health care, and the economy, hunger and poverty must be a part of that conversation.

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Children are better equipped to learn when they have the nutrition they need. Yet too many low-income children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals are not accessing them. More must be done to increase participation in school meals, summers meals, afterschool meals, and child care meals.
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Health care
Research shows that food insecurity is linked with costly chronic diseases and unfavorable outcomes. According to the Root Cause Coalition, the annual costs of hunger to the U.S. health care system are $130.5 billion. Greater investments in nutrition programs would go a long way in addressing obesity and other negative health outcomes faced by low-income Americans.
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SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger for millions of Americans. The recent census data shows that SNAP lifted 4.6 million people out of poverty in 2015. In addition, USDA research shows that each $5 of SNAP benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity. Federal nutrition programs can’t do it alone. There must be a comprehensive approach.

Recent Publications & Data

See More Resources
  • Interactive Data Tool

    This interactive map provides state-by-state data on participation in the free and reduced-price School Breakfast Program, as compared to participation in the free and reduced-price National School Lunch Program. These data are based on FRAC’s analysis of data shared with FRAC by USDA and state nutrition and education agencies, and are featured in FRAC’s reports, School Breakfast Scorecard: School Year 2016-2017, and School Breakfast: Making it Work in Large School Districts.

    Find out more
  • Report

    This annual analysis looks at school breakfast participation and policies in 75 large school districts across the country to evaluate successful practices in reaching more low-income children with school breakfast. It is a companion report to the School Breakfast Scorecard.

    Read the report
  • Fact Sheet

    The president’s fiscal year 2019 budget does not propose any direct changes to the federally funded Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs. These child nutrition programs, like the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs and the Summer Nutrition Programs, are federal entitlement programs and are not part of the president’s proposal for the discretionary budget. The proposed budget does, however, zero out funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), the largest federal funding source for operations of afterschool and summer programs.

    Read more
  • Report

    This annual report analyzes participation in the School Breakfast Program among low-income children nationally and in each state and the District of Columbia for the 2016-2017 school year. The report also features best practices for increasing participation in the program, including breakfast after the bell models and community eligibility.

    Read the report
Taking Action
Plan of Action to End Hunger in America
There can be no more excuses for hunger in this country. In our A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America, we recommend eight strategies to reduce the suffering and unnecessary costs caused by struggles with hunger, poverty, and reduced opportunity.