Data & Statistics on Hunger

Hunger Quick Facts for 2020

  • Overall: Over 38 million Americans (11.8 percent) lived in households that struggled against food insecurity, or lack of access to an affordable, nutritious diet. This represents a 9 percent increase from 2019.
  • One in 25 (3.9 percent) of households in the U.S. experienced very low food security, a more severe form of food insecurity, where households report regularly skipping meals or reducing intake because they could not afford more food.
  • Children: 1 in 7 (14.8 percent) households with children could not buy enough food for their families, considerably higher than the rate for households without children (8.8 percent).
  • Rural: Households in rural areas experienced deeper struggles with hunger compared to those in metro areas, with higher rates of food insecurity overall (11.6 percent in rural areas compared to 10.4 percent in metro areas).
  • Race and ethnicity: Black (21.7 percent) and Latinx (17.2 percent) households are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, with food insecurity rates in 2020 triple and double the rate of White households (7.1 percent), respectively.
  • Geography: The food insecurity rate is highest in the South (12.3 percent), followed by the Midwest, West, and Northeast.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably by state, ranging from 5.7 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi (for the three-year period of 2018–2020).

Household Food Security in the United States in 2020

*Readers should note that these 2020 statistics were collected from the Current Population Survey in December 2020, which was still experiencing slightly lower response rates due to COVID-19.

Updated 9/8/2021

Poverty Quick Facts

  • Overall: According to the official poverty rate, 37.2 million people (11.4 percent) lived in poverty in 2020, 3.3 million more than in 2019 (10.5 percent).
  • Median household income declined by 2.9 percent, from $69,600 in 2019 to $67,500 in 2020. This is the first significant decline since 2011.
  • Children: One in 6 (16.1 percent or 11.6 million) children lived in poverty in 2020, an increase from 14.4 percent (or 1.1 million children) from 2019.
  • Rural: The 2020 poverty rate was higher for individuals in cities (14.3 percent) and in rural areas (14.1 percent) compared to suburban areas (9.1 percent).
  • Race/Ethnicity: The 2020 poverty rate was much higher for Black individuals (19.5 percent) and Latinx individuals (17.0 percent) than for White individuals (10.1 percent).
  • Geography: Nationally, the Southern region had the highest average poverty rate (13.3 percent) followed by the Western region (10.6 percent) and the Northwest and Midwest (both 10.1 percent).
  • Role of the Federal Nutrition Programs: SNAP and school meals lifted 3.2 million people out of poverty, and WIC lifted 102,000 people out of poverty in 2019.
  • Supplemental Poverty Measure: According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which accounts for cost of living and the receipt of social safety net programs, the poverty rate was 9.1 percent in 2020 compared to 11.8 percent in 2019. This is the first time the SPM has been lower than the official poverty rate and reflects the impact of expansions to federal assistance programs during the pandemic.

On September 14, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest reports, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020, The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2020, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2020.

Recent data shows unacceptably high levels of food insecurity in 2020.

Compare and contrast the latest statistics for 2019 and 2020 across categories.

Compare

Food Insecurity Maps and Tables

Want to learn more about food insecurity in your state? Explore FRAC’s interactive maps and tables to find the most recent household food insecurity rates in your state. Scroll over your state to view the percent of households struggling with food insecurity or very low food security. Engage with FRAC’s interactive, searchable tables to see the change in household food insecurity rates over time.

Find out more

Recent Publications

Hunger, Poverty, and Health Disparities During COVID-19 and the Federal Nutrition Programs’ Role in an Equitable Recovery

The health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has made the federal nutrition programs more important than ever. FRAC’s latest report is a review of new research on how the federal nutrition programs reduce hunger, poverty, and health, including their efficacy during the pandemic, and concludes with policy recommendations to leverage the federal nutrition programs for a robust and equitable recovery.

Learn More

Food Over Fear: Overcoming Barriers to Connect Latinx Immigrant Families to Federal Nutrition and Food Programs

Read FRAC and National Immigration Law Center’s report which sheds light on why many immigrant families are forgoing vital assistance from federal nutrition and food programs and lifts up recommendations aimed at ensuring that all families and individuals, regardless of immigration status, are nourished and healthy.

Read the Report

Fact Sheets on the Impact of COVID-19 on Special Populations

COVID-19 has created disparate impacts on diverse populations, including Black communities; Latinx communities; American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities; Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities; young adults; older adults; women; households with low income; households with low education attainment; and rural communities.

Learn more in FRAC's fact sheets

Taking Action

White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

Learn more about FRAC’s priorities for the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and how to get involved.

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, addressing hunger and poverty must be a part of that conversation.

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Education
The last thing on a hungry child’s mind is learning. 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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Economy
SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger for millions of Americans. The program also stimulates the economy. Recent census data shows that SNAP lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016. 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
  • Fact Sheet

    Many schools have found it more difficult to collect school meals applications during COVID-19, and this may be exacerbated as schools return to pre-pandemic operations. This toolkit shares outreach strategies and communication resources to help school districts and community partners ensure families return school meals applications.

    View the toolkit
  • Report

    In spring 2020, millions of students were either out of school or learning remotely. Pandemic EBT helped to fill the nutritional gap left by lack of access to school meals and had a large impact on addressing food insecurity.

    FRAC’s latest Pandemic EBT report draws on a survey sent to all state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program directors to highlight the critical importance of this program for children, families, and school nutrition programs. It then takes lessons learned reported by states to make policy recommendations for a permanent nationwide Summer EBT Program and identifies best practices to support the implementation.

    Read the report
  • Fact Sheet

    Accompanying FRAC’s report, Pandemic EBT: Recommendations for a Permanent Nationwide Summer EBT Program, these state fact sheets provide a detailed picture of approved state P-EBT plans, including statistics on number of children served, communications and outreach strategies, and estimates of total benefit issuance. 

    Read the fact sheets
  • Guide

    The reauthorization of the federal Child Nutrition Programs presents a unique opportunity to correct federal policy that has exacerbated food insecurity in Indian Country. In this policy brief, FRAC and the Intertribal Agriculture Council explore the ways Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) can ensure the Child Nutrition Programs reach and serve Tribal constituents in a more efficient and effective manner. 

    Read the policy brief
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.