More than 1 in 7 Americans in Food Insecure Households in 2014

USDA Releases Twentieth Annual Food Security Measure, With Roots in FRAC Surveys

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Contact: Jennifer Adach, jadach@frac.org, 202.640.1118

Washington, D.C. – September 9, 2015 – More than 48.1 million Americans lived in households that were struggling against hunger in 2014, according to new data on food insecurity released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service. The 2014 numbers were a slight decline (of fewer than a million people) from 2013, with the rate declining from 15.8 to 15.4 percent.

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the nation’s leading anti-hunger organization, is calling on Congress and the President to support strategies that increase employment and wage growth for America’s families and to invest  more in federally-funded programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs.

“After jumping dramatically at the beginning of the recession, these numbers of food insecure households and people are coming down far too slowly,” said Jim Weill, FRAC president. “We have solutions to this problem so there can be no excuses. Federal nutrition programs are among the most effective tools in ensuring people of all ages get the food they need to be active and healthy.  More must be done, and now.”

Other findings from the USDA report include:

  • The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger – “very low food security” – was 5.5 percent in 2014.
  • 15.3 million children lived in food insecure households in 2014, compared to 15.8 million in 2013.
  • Households outside metropolitan areas (more rural areas) are seeing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (17.1 percent compared to 13.5 percent), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (23.6 percent compared to 18.4 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (7.3 percent compared to 5.3 percent).
  • Food insecurity rates for Black and Hispanic households were substantially above the national average, with 26.1 percent of Black households and 22.4 percent of Hispanic households reporting they struggled against hunger in 2014.
  • State food insecurity rates ranged from 22 percent of Mississippi households to 8.4 percent of North Dakota households for the period of 2012 to 2014, showing that no corner of the country is immune from food insecurity. (USDA uses three year averages for states to obtain adequate sample sizes.)

Measuring Hunger: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

This is the twentieth year that USDA has released these survey results, revealing the extent to which households across the nation struggle with hunger. The current food insecurity measure has its roots in state and national surveys developed by FRAC  in the 1980s. FRAC then led the successful effort in 1990 to get Congress to establish the annual federal government survey.

“When hunger was growing in the 1980s, officials were denying that fact and denying that hunger could be measured, but FRAC set out to prove that it could be done. FRAC staff led researchers and advocates in the development of a survey tool that served as the foundation of today’s food insecurity measure,” said Weill. “The ability to measure the breadth of food insecurity provides policymakers and the nation with a science-based picture of the struggles to meet basic needs that so many continue to face. What today’s USDA release does is apply this tool to again tell us that far too many people struggle with hunger. Our political leaders need to act by investing in the federal nutrition programs and other poverty and hunger reduction strategies.”

Visit FRAC’s website at www.frac.org for ongoing analysis of the food insecurity numbers and for a history of the food insecurity measure.

About the USDA Report
The United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates since 1995 of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. The report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity.