Hunger and Poverty

Get state data (pdf files):

Food insecurity between 2011 and 2013

Poverty rate and less than 185% of FPL for all residents in 2012

Poverty rate and less than 185% of FPL for children in 2012

Poverty rate and less than 185% of FPL for counties within states for all residents in 2012 and 2009-2012

Poverty rate and less than 185% of FPL for counties within states for children in 2012 and 2009-2012

The federal nutrition programs lift households out of poverty. Nationally, SNAP lifted 4.9 million people out of poverty in 2012. Learn more about the SNAP effect.

Hunger and poverty affect far too many Americans. Here are some facts:


  • One in seven Americans struggled with hunger in 2013. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (pdf), more than 49 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2012. Of them, 15.7 million were children (21.4 percent of all children). Previously, in 2012, 48.9 million Americans lived in food insecure households. The number of people living in households with very low food security – the worst off households – remained steady at 17.1 million in 2012 and 2013.
  • The overall rate of food insecurity has remained virtually unchanged since 2008. Essentially food insecurity spiked at the beginning of the recession, and has stayed elevated ever since. From 2003 to 2007, the annual number of people in food insecure households was in a range of 35.1 million to 38.2 million people. From 2008 to 2013, the range has been 48.8 million to 50.2 million people.


  • More than one in six people lived in poverty in 2012. The Census Bureau (pdf) reported that in 2012, 48.7 million people (15.9 percent) lived in poverty, a rate nearly unchanged from the 2011 poverty rate.
  • 99.1 million people, or 32.4 percent of all Americans, lived on less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level in 2012. This means they are income-eligible for most federal nutrition programs, like food stamps and child nutrition programs – assistance which can help them stretch their food dollars and get access to healthy foods.
  • Children continue to have high poverty rates, with 22.6 percent of children under 18 (16.3 million) living in poverty in 2012. 30.5 million (42.1 percent) of all children under 18 lived in families with incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Not only are there considerable disparities between state poverty rates, but counties within states also show large disparities in 2012. For example, many states have counties with a 15-20 percentage point difference between the lowest and highest poverty rates.