Hunger Quick Facts for 2021
- Overall: Over 33.8 million Americans (10.2) 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).
Poverty Quick Facts
- Overall poverty: According to the official poverty rate, 37.9 million people (11.5 percent) lived in poverty in 2022, unchanged from 2021. However, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which accounts for cost of living and the receipt of social safety net programs, the poverty rate increased by 60%, from 25.6 million people (7.8 percent) in 2021 to 40.9 million people (12.4 percent) in 2022.
- Income: After accounting for inflation, real median household income declined by 2.3 percent, from $76,330 in 2021 to $74,580 in 2022.
- Context: Normally, the SPM is higher than the official poverty rate. In 2020 and 2021 it was lower than the official poverty rate, reflecting the impact of expansions to federal assistance programs during the pandemic. Conversely, in 2022, the higher value of the SPM reflects the end of pandemic-era assistance.
Poverty rates using the comprehensive Supplemental Poverty Measure for specific groups:
- Children: 1 in 8 (12.4 percent or 9.0 million) children lived in poverty in 2022, more than double the number of children in poverty in 2021 (5.2 percent or 3.8 million).
- Race/Ethnicity: In 2022, the supplemental poverty measure was much higher for Black individuals (17.2 percent), Latinx individuals (19.3 percent), and Native American and Alaska Native individuals (23.2 percent) than for White individuals (9.1 percent). All rates reflect an increase from 2021. Higher rates of poverty in Black, Latinx and Native communities are due to systemic racism that results in neighborhood disinvestment, occupational segregation, wage discrimination, etc.
- Geography: Nationally, the Southern region had the highest average poverty rate (13.7 percent) followed by the Western region (13.4 percent), the Northeast region (11.9) and the Midwest region (9.1 percent).
- Role of the Federal Nutrition Programs: The federal nutrition programs lifted more people out of poverty in 2022 compared to 2021 and 2020. In 2022, SNAP lifted 3.7 million people out of poverty, 1.4 of whom were children, school meals lifted 1.5 million people out of poverty, 830,000 of which were children, and WIC lifted 164,000 people out of poverty, 98,000 of whom were children.
On September 12, 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest reports Poverty in the United States: 2022, Income in the United States: 2022, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2022.
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.
Who is impacted by hunger?
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
The Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which offers the lowest of the four major food plans the federal government uses, sets the maximum amount of food dollars Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants can receive. Despite a long overdue update of the TFP in 2021, the plan still leaves SNAP participants short of the benefit amounts sufficient for food for the entire month. This research brief explains why SNAP should switch from the TFP model to the more equitable Low-Cost Food Plan to equip participants with fuller plates and improved health and well-being.Read the research brief
- Fact Sheet
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 created a permanent nationwide Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT) Program. Beginning in 2024, states, territories, and Indian Tribal Organizations will be required to cover 50 percent of the Summer EBT administrative expenses from nonfederal sources. Careful planning and preparation by states and territories, and technical assistance by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS), are critical to ensure full implementation of Summer EBT in 2024. Learn more in FRAC’s new one-pager.Read the one-pager
- Fact Sheet
Millions of people who rely on support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have seen their benefits drop – in many cases, dramatically. As of March 1, 2023, all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants have suffered cuts to their benefits each month as the temporary, pandemic-era SNAP boosts known as Emergency Allotments have come to an end. Combined with soaring food prices and skyrocketing heating, transportation, and housing costs, our nation is facing a hunger cliff. Find out how the hunger cliff has affected people in your state using FRAC’s state Hunger Cliff fact sheets.Find your state's fact sheet
- Fact Sheet
Time limits in SNAP harm women, LGBTQIA+ people, and their families. Taking away nutrition assistance will not help women and LGBTQIA+ people find jobs any faster; it will just increase hunger. As a nation, we should fight hunger by helping families struggling to make ends meet put food on the table. Congress should increase SNAP benefits so fewer families have to choose between food and shelter or other necessities and reduce inequities in SNAP that prevent many women, LGBTQIA+ people, and their families from accessing this critical program. SNAP needs to be protected and strengthened.Learn more