ERS: Levels of food insecurity, security unchanged |

ERS: Levels of food insecurity, security unchanged

Duke Storen
The Hagstrom Report |

The levels of food insecurity and very low food security were unchanged from 2015 to 2016, the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service reported last week.

An estimated 12.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2016, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, ERS said. That is essentially unchanged from 12.7 percent in 2015.

The prevalence of very low food security also essentially unchanged, at 4.9 percent in 2016 and 5.0 percent in 2015, ERS added.

Anti-hunger groups noted that the level of insecurity has dropped since the height of the recession, but said the report showed Congress should not cut back on federal nutrition programs.

“The food security report released today tells a bad news, good news story,” said Duke Storen, senior vice president at No Kid Hungry, a project of Share Our Strength.

“The bad news is that 41 million people, including 12.9 million children, live in food-insecure households, meaning that they struggle to consistently put healthy food on the table,” Storen added. “The good news is that the nation continues to see a downward trend in food insecurity, with the percentage of food-insecure households falling from 14.9 percent in 2011 to 12.3 percent in 2016”

“While there has been progress since the peak of food insecurity driven by the recession — 14.9 percent in 2011 — it is much too little and much too slow,” said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

“The federal government should be leading the way in addressing the fundamental problem of households struggling with hunger, but Congress and the president seem headed in the wrong direction,” said Weill. “SNAP and school meals have a proven track record in effectively addressing food insecurity. Without question, cuts to these programs would make food insecurity in this country far worse.”

FRAC also noted detailed findings in the report:

» The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with children, and for black- and Hispanic-headed households.

» The food insecurity rate worsened for black, non-Hispanic households from 2015 to 2016, while improving for Hispanic and white, non-Hispanic households.

» Rates among households with children remain higher than rates for households without children (16.5 percent versus 10.5 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 (15 percent compared to 11.8 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (6.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent).

» The food insecurity rate in the South census region, already higher than in the West, Northeast, and Midwest, rose from 2015 to 2016, while the rate in the other three regions fell.

» The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably by state, ranging from 8.7 percent in Hawaii to 18.7 percent in Mississippi (for the three-year period of 2014–2016).

» Of the 10 most populous states, five had food insecurity rates higher than the national average of 13 percent from 2014–2016: North Carolina (15.1 percent), Ohio (14.8 percent), Michigan (14.3 percent), Texas (14.3 percent) and Georgia (14 percent).