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Hunger in America, By the Numbers

(Photo: mdavidford / Flickr)

Last year, 17.2 million households in the United States were food insecure, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continued to wreak havoc on families across the country. Of those 17.2 million households, 3.9 million included children. On Thanksgiving weekend, here’s a look at hunger in America, as millions of Americans struggle to get enough to eat in the wake of the economic crisis.

17.2 million: The number of households that were food insecure in 2010, the highest number on record. They make up 14.5 percent of households, or approximately one in seven.

48.8 million: People who lived in food insecure households last year.

3.9 million: The number of households with children that were food insecure last year. In 1 percent of households with children, “one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecure condition measured by USDA, very low food security, in which meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers.”

6.4 million: Households that experienced very low food security last year, meaning “normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.”

55: The percentage of food-insecure households that participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP, WIC, School lunch program).

19.4: The percentage of food insecure households in Mississippi, which had thehighest rate in the nation last year.

3.6 percent: The amount by which food prices increased last year.

30 percent: The amount by which food insecurity grew during the Great Recession.

44: The percentage increase in households using food pantries between 2007 and 2009.

20 million: The number of children who benefit from free and reduced lunchper day.

10.5 million: The number of eligible children who don’t receive their free and reduced lunch benefits.

$167.5 billion: The amount that the U.S. lost in 2010 due to hunger (lost educational attainment + avoidable illness + charitable giving to fight hunger). This doesn’t take into account the $94 billion cost of SNAP and other food programs.

8: The number of states (FL, TX, CA, IL, NY, OH, PA, GA) where the annual cost of hunger exceeds $6 billion.

Last year, “nearly half of the households seeking emergency food assistance reported having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food. Nearly 40 percent said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food.” This Thanksgiving, as you sit down to enjoy a meal with family and friends, please spare a thought for those who, due to the country’s continuing economic woes, may not have enough to eat.

This holiday season, please consider donating to a local food bank. You can find one nearby ordonate online through the Feeding America website. You can also give to Operation Homefront, a group that provides assistance to military families.

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