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

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

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


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

Not Enough to Eat

Read FRAC’s 2020 report Not Enough to Eat: COVID-19 Deepens America’s Hunger Crisis finds that Black and Latinx households, women, and children have been particularly hit hard during the pandemic. The report also underscores how the struggle to put food on the table would be far worse if not for federal nutrition programs.

Find out more

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

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.

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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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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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
  • Guide

    As of January 3, seven states have been approved to distribute Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits for school-age children in the 2021–2022 school year. Of these states, only Michigan has been approved to use simplifying assumptions for the predominant models of learning as opposed to tracking student-level data. Learn more about how Michigan is calculating P-EBT benefits.

    Learn More
  • Guide

    Poor nutrition, poverty, and food insecurity have detrimental impacts on infant, child, and maternal health and well-being. Connecting patients to WIC is an evidence-based strategy to address these issues. This resource provides information about WIC and the importance of referring eligible people to this critical Child Nutrition Program.

    Explore the Guide
  • Fact Sheet

    The House-passed Build Back Better (BBB) Act (H.R. 5376) would make historic investments in proven child nutrition programs. The Act would increase the number of schools that can offer meals to all students at no charge through the Community Eligibility Provision and it would create a nationwide Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program. Combined, these provisions would help reduce hunger, improve health, and support children’s academic achievement in states across the U.S.

    Read the report
  • Report

    Native American communities remain resilient in the face of disproportionately high rates of poverty, hunger, unemployment, and poor health, both before and during COVID19. For American Indian and Alaska Native communities, disparities in food insecurity are a result of the structural racism originating with colonization and continuing to the present.

    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.