WASHINGTON, September 5, 2018 — More than 40 million Americans lived in households struggling with food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to enough food — in 2017, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS). The data reveal a decline in household food insecurity in 2017 from the previous year, with the rate dropping from 12.3 to 11.8 percent.

As ERS points out, the multi-year post-recession decline in food insecurity still leaves the rate higher than before the Great Recession. In 2017, 3.8 million more people lived in food-insecure households than in 2007.

“The food insecurity rate in this country is still far too high, affecting one in eight people and one in six children. Progress against food insecurity driven by the recession is too little and too slow. It underscores the need for Congress to act to address poverty and hunger, including passage of a Farm Bill that protects and strengthens SNAP,” said Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center. “Without question, deep cuts to SNAP as included in the draconian House bill would make food insecurity far worse for children, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, working families, and others across the country.”

Study after study shows that food insecurity harms health, the ability to learn, productivity, and the nation’s economic strength. Research demonstrates that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is effective in reducing food insecurity and improving health and well-being.

Other key findings from the ERS report include:

  • The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with children (15.7 percent) and households headed by African-Americans (21.8 percent) and Hispanics (18 percent).
  • Households in rural areas are experiencing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those in metro areas, with higher rates of food insecurity overall (13.3 percent compared to 11.5 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (7.9 percent compared to 7.1 percent).
  • The food insecurity rate in the South census region, already higher than in the West, Northeast, and Midwest, remained unchanged from 2016 to 2017, while the rate in the other three regions fell.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably by state, ranging from 7.4 percent in Hawaii to 17.9 percent in New Mexico (for the three-year period of 2015–2017).
    • Of the 10 most populous states, five had food insecurity rates higher than the national average of 12.3 percent from 2015–2017: North Carolina (14.4 percent), Texas (14 percent), Ohio (13.7 percent), Michigan (13.6 percent), and Georgia (13 percent).

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The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Read FRAC’s A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.

About the ERS Report
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released estimates since 1995 of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food-insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. The ERS report also includes food insecurity rates for each state, but for states, it uses three-year averages to give a better estimate of the number of households experiencing food insecurity.