FRAC’s Hunger & Poverty in America Page includes:
Hunger Quick Facts for 2021
- Overall: Over 33.8 million Americans (10.4) lived in households that struggled against food insecurity, or lack of access to an affordable, nutritious diet.
- One in 26 (3.8 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 8 (12.5 percent) households with children could not buy enough food for their families, considerably higher than the rate for households without children (9.4 percent).
- Rural: Households in rural areas experienced deeper struggles with hunger compared to those in metro areas, with higher rates of food insecurity overall (10.8 percent in rural areas compared to 10.1 percent in metro areas).
- Race and ethnicity: Black (19.8 percent) and Latinx (16.2 percent) households are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, with food insecurity rates in 2021 triple and double the rate of White households (7.0 percent), respectively.
- Geography: The food insecurity rate is highest in the South (11.4 percent), followed by the Midwest (9.9 percent), West (9.7 percent), and Northeast (8.8 percent).
- The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably by state, ranging from 5.4 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi (for the three-year period of 2019-2021).
Household Food Security in the United States in 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.
Food Insecurity Map
Want to learn more about food insecurity in your state? Explore FRAC’s interactive map 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.
Pandemic Disrupted Decade-Long Decline in Food Insecurity in 2020
Food insecurity rates plateaued over the last three years, disrupting an almost decade-long decline in food insecurity since the Great Recession. Yet the fact that food insecurity did not increase in 2020 and 2021 is a testament to the magnitude of the federal pandemic response.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who is impacted by hunger?
Veterans Have Fought for Our Country — They Shouldn’t Have to Fight Against HungerRead the blog post
Screen and Intervene: Addressing Food Insecurity Among Older AdultsNew online course from FRAC and AARP
Despite an improving economy, millions of families still struggle with hunger in every community, and every state.Read more
Poverty, hunger, and food insecurity disproportionately affect Americans who have communicative, mental, or physical disabilities.Read more
Certain jobless adults without dependents have time limits on their receipt of SNAP benefits despite their willingness to work.Download the infographic
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.
EducationThe 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.
Health careResearch 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.
EconomySNAP 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 & DataSee More Resources
- Advocacy ToolJoint Statement by National Organizations and Farm Bill Stakeholder Groups in Support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Utilize this Joint Statement by National Organizations and Farm Bill Stakeholder Groups in Support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), signed by nearly 225 national organizations and entities, in your Farm Bill advocacy to protect and strengthen the program.Read the sign-on letter
Food Research & Action Center’s report, The Reach of School Breakfast and Lunch During the 2021–2022 School Year , reveals that just over 15.5 million children received a school breakfast, and 29.9 million children received a school lunch on an average day during the 2021–2022 school year — an increase of 1.6 million children in breakfast, and 10.1 million in lunch compared to the 2020–2021 school year.Read the report
- Fact Sheet
This past year, states have seen a dramatic increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program benefits reported stolen from clients electronically through “skimming” and “phishing” crimes.
Find background on skimming, details on congressional actions to address skimming thefts in the short term, and action items for state agencies in FRAC’s Skimming Fact Sheet.Read the fact sheet
- Fact Sheet
The 2023 Farm Bill presents an opportunity to strengthen SNAP benefit adequacy and equitable access. Find FRAC’s legislative priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill.Discover FRAC's priorities