Statement attributable to James Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center

WASHINGTON, September 4, 2019 — A report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) underscores that the nation has been making far too weak progress on food insecurity. The report reveals that the 2018 food insecurity rate was on par with the 2007 pre-recession level of 11.1 percent, which was already far too high. The nation’s most vulnerable populations – families with children, African Americans, Hispanics, and those living in rural areas and the South continue to disproportionately struggle to put food on the table. Food insecurity harms health, the ability to learn, and productivity, and the persistent high rates harm the nation’s economic and social strength.

The nation needs to double down on its commitment to ending hunger and poverty. We need stronger wage growth for workers at the bottom of the economic ladder, and we need greater investments in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals, and other nutrition supports.

What the nation does not need is the weakening of nutrition programs and other safety net supports that has been coming in waves of unprecedented attacks by the Trump administration. In SNAP alone, multiple Trump administration rules and proposed rules seek to put in place bad ideas that Congress has rejected — rules designed to keep members of immigrant families (including citizen children), low-wage working families, seniors, and people with disabilities from accessing SNAP.  These draconian policies will only increase hunger and poverty in this country.

Key findings from the ERS report include the following:

  • The food insecurity rate for households with children (13.9 percent) was two-fifths higher than the rate for households without children (9.9 percent).
  • The rates of food insecurity were much higher for households headed by African Americans (21.2 percent — two and a half times the rate for white non-Hispanic households) and Hispanics (16.2 percent — two times the rate for white non-Hispanic households).
  • Households in rural areas are experiencing considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those in metro areas, with higher rates of food insecurity overall (12.7 percent compared to 10.8 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (4.8 percent compared to 4.2 percent).
  • The food insecurity rate is highest in the South census region, followed by the Midwest, West, and Northeast.
  • The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably by state, ranging from 7.8 percent in New Hampshire to 16.8 percent in New Mexico (for the three-year period of 2016–2018). Even in the best performing states, 1 in 13 households was food insecure.
  • Of the 10 most populous states, four had food insecurity rates higher than the national average of 11.7 percent from 2016–2018: Texas (14 percent), North Carolina (13.9 percent), Ohio (13.2 percent), and Michigan (12.9 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.

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. Households described as having “very low” food security are the subset of food-insecure households that faced more severe forms or frequency of reduced intake and disrupted eating patterns. 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.