One in Four Households with Children Report Inability to Afford Enough Food

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Data Specify Extent of Struggle in Every State and Metropolitan Area, Underscoring Need to Protect Nutrition Safety Net

Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018

Download Food Hardship 2008-2012: Geography and Household Composition (pdf)

Washington, D.C. – September 18, 2013 – The recession has meant that large numbers of all types of households have been struggling to purchase adequate food, but households with children suffered extraordinarily high rates, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). In surveys running for five years through 2012, nearly one in four households with children said they couldn’t consistently afford food. This underscores further the almost incalculable harm portended by the House Majority Leadership proposal to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by a staggering $40 billion.

Food Hardship 2008-2012: Geography and Household Composition examines food hardship rates – the inability to afford enough food – for households with and without children. Data are available for the nation, every state and region, and 100 of the country’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). In the surveys conducted continually between 2008 and 2012, an average of 18.2 percent of all households in the U.S. had experienced food hardship within the prior 12 months, but the rate leapt to 23.5 percent for households with children. Households without children still had a high food hardship rate, with 15.1 percent saying they struggled to afford enough food.

“It is outrageous that SNAP cuts are even being considered when all the data show us the depth and breadth of the struggles facing so many people to put food on the table,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “And it is especially outrageous given that most of the support for cutting SNAP is coming from Members who live in some of the hardest hit regions and states. Members who vote for SNAP cuts are showing a callous disregard for their constituents, many of whom are only scraping by with the help of food stamps.”

This report is consistent with data released by the federal government this month which show a new economic reality for many Americans – continuing high rates of poverty and food insecurity, and stagnant and declining wages. The food insecurity data, released by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), show that one in six Americans struggled with hunger in 2012. (Those data are not broken down by households with and without children.)

In other words, hunger and poverty rates – already too high – spiked considerably higher at the beginning of the recession and have stayed there ever since. The food hardship data reveal the extraordinary frequency of economic struggles for households with children. “Cutting SNAP would worsen an already terrible situation for these struggling households,” said Weill.

Other findings from the FRAC report include:

  • In each region of the nation, more than one in five households with children experienced food hardship, but the rates were above one in four in the Southeast, Southwest and Western regions.
  • The worst 15 states all had a food hardship rate for households with children of at least 26.7 percent (more than one in four), and three states (Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and Alabama) had a rate greater than or equal to 30.0 percent for such households. Nearly half of the states had rates above 25 percent.
  • Of the 100 largest MSAs, 78 had a food hardship rate for households with children greater than or equal to 20 percent. While the conventional wisdom may be that urban poverty and economic hardship are concentrated in the Midwest, the Gallup data show that the Southeast, Southwest and California have MSAs where households were the most likely to experience food hardship.

About the data
FRAC’s Food Hardship in America series analyzes data that were collected by Gallup and provided to FRAC. The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which interviewed nearly 1.8 million households between 2008 and 2012. 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?”