Use data to support your information and provide context. Examining hunger from one source’s perspective can be a good start, but since hunger affects every community in the U.S., establishing it as a broader issue is important.
Data can cover the intersection of variables that influence hunger, such as race, poverty, education and health.
An example: African Americans were more than twice as likely to be unemployed (11 percent) as their white counterparts (5 percent), and unemployment is correlated with hunger and food insecurity.
Data often accompany labels like “food security” and “food insecurity.” There is a difference between hunger and food insecurity, however, so understanding the language is important to defining the data.
Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.
Hunger and food insecurity statistics
(Sources: Feeding America, Outnumber Hunger, USDA Economic Research Service, US Census Bureau)
This is what food insecurity looks like in the United States.
- 1 in 7 Americans struggled to put food on the table in 2014.
- More than 12 million families in America faced hunger in 2014.
- 1 million Americans (14 percent of U.S. households) lived in food insecure households in 2014, which means about 48 million Americans were uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food to feed every household member at some point during the year.
- 3 million children lived in food insecure households in 2014.
- 8 million adults lived in food insecure households in 2014.
- 9 million U.S. households (5.6 percent) had very low food security and experienced hunger.
Intense food insecurity occurs when normal eating patterns of one or more household members are disrupted and food intake is reduced at times during the year because of a lack of money or other resources for food. These are hunger statistics by food insecurity level.
Food secure — Households that had access at all times to enough food for active, healthy lives for all household members.
- 86 percent (106.6 million) of U.S. households were food secure in 2014.
Food insecure — Households that were uncertain of having or unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of their members because of insufficient money or other resources for food.
- 14 percent (17.4 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some point during 2014.
Low food security — Households that had enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reduced food intake by using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in federal food assistance programs or getting emergency food from community food pantries.
- 4 percent (10.5 million) of U.S. households had low food security in 2014.
Very low food security — Households where the normal eating patterns of one or more household members and food intake was reduced at times during the year because of insufficient money or other resources for food.
- 6 percent (6.9 million) of U.S. households had very low food security at some time during 2014. Unchanged from the 5.6 percent in 2013.
(Sources: Feeding America, Outnumber Hunger, USDA Economic Research Service, U.S. Census Bureau, talkpoverty.org)
While poverty is a variable that can influence hunger, it is not a direct predictor of hunger. Some people above the poverty line also experience hunger.
● In 2014, 46.7 million Americans (14.8 percent) were in poverty.
● The national poverty rate of 14.8 percent in 2014 reflects the percentage of people who fell below the poverty line, which was $23,834 for a family of four.
● 15.5 million (21.1 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty in 2014.
● For people aged 18 to 64 in 2014, the poverty rate was 13.5 percent.
● 4.6 million (10 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty in 2014.
● In 2014, 26 percent of food-insecure individuals were above 185 percent of the poverty line and were typically ineligible for most food-assistance programs.
African American, Hispanic and Native American households experience disproportionate levels of poverty and have lower household income than their white counterparts.
- 26 percent of African Americans lived in poverty in 2014.
- 12 percent of African Americans lived in deep poverty in 2014, compared to the 7 percent of all people in the U.S.
- 6 percent of Hispanics fell below the poverty line in 2014. 10 percent of non-Hispanic whites fell below the poverty line in 2014.
- 28.3 percent of Native Americans were in poverty in 2014.
Other factors are influenced by poverty.
- 5 percent of people with disabilities fell below the poverty line in 2014.
- The number of people in poverty in the U.S. in 2014 was not statistically different from the previous four years.
- Poverty rates went up for only two demographics between 2013 and 2014: people with bachelor’s degrees or more, and married couple families.
- Women earned 79.9 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts in 2014.
- In 2013, 57 housing units were affordable and available for every 100 renter households with low incomes.
- The median income for Hispanic households is $42,491 — it falls nearly $20,000 below their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.
- 10 percent of Latinos live in deep poverty — incomes were below 50 percent of the federal poverty threshold. The national rate for deep poverty is 7 percent.
- Food insecure people needed an additional $16.28 per person per week for food in 2013.
The total of all food-insecure people in the U.S. left a $24.2 billion food budget shortfall in 2013.
(Sources:Feeding America, USDA Economic Research Service, U.S. Census Bureau, Food Research and Action Center)
Several types of households have rates of food insecurity higher than the national average of 14 percent.
- All households with children (19.2 percent of all households with children are food insecure.)
- Households with children under the age of 6 (19.9 percent)
- Households with children headed by a single woman (35.3 percent)
- Households with children headed by a single man (21.7 percent)
- Black, non-Hispanic households (26.1 percent)
- Hispanic households (22.4 percent)
- Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (33.7 percent)
- 1-in-4 African American households are food insecure, compared with the 1 in 10 of Caucasian households and 1 in 7 overall.
Children and the elderly are disproportionately the victims of hunger.
- 1-in-5 households with children were affected by food insecurity in 2014.
- Households with children in which food insecurity was experienced: 19.2 percent
- Households with children in which only the adults were food insecure: 9.8 percent
- Households with children in which food insecurity is experienced by both adults and children: 9.4 percent
- Households with children in which low food security is experienced by both the children and adults: 8.3 percent
- Households with children in which very low food security is experienced by both the children and adults: 1.1 percent / 422,000 households
In about half of those food insecure households with children, only the adults experienced food insecurity. Parents often shield children from experiencing food insecurity, particularly very low food security, even when the parents themselves are food insecure.
- In 2014, 15.5 million children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
- In 2013, 44.4 percent of all SNAP participants were children.
- In 2014, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-priced meals daily through the National School Lunch Program
Seniors can have a number of challenges that put them at greater risk of being hungry. Some seniors who experience food insecurity have enough money to purchase food but don’t have the resources to access or prepare food due to lack of transportation, functional limitations or health problems.
- 5 million senior citizens age 60 and older face hunger.
- The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50 percent by 2025.
- 3 million (9 percent) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity.
- Food insecure seniors have an increased risk for chronic health conditions (even when controlling for other factors such as income).
- 60 percent are more likely to experience depression.
- 53 percent are more likely to report a heart attack.
- 52 percent are more likely to develop asthma.
- 40 percent are more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure.
- Elderly households are much less likely to receive help through SNAP than non-elderly households, even when expected benefits are roughly the same.
African American households are disproportionately represented within the charitable food assistance client population.
- 1 percent of black households struggled against hunger in 2014.
- African Americans were more than twice as likely to be unemployed (11 percent) as their white counterparts (5 percent).
- More than 1 in 3 African American children (34 percent) live in food-insecure households as compared to the 1 in 7 (15 percent) white children.
- 94 percent of African American majority counties in 2013 fell into the top 10 percent of counties with the highest rates of food insecurity. It is important to keep in mind that those 98 African American majority counties represent 3 percent of all U.S. counties.
- Of the 10 counties with the highest food insecurity rates in the nation, all are at least 70 percent African American.
Hispanic households are more than twice as likely to be food insecure as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.
- More than 1 in 5 Latino households are food insecure (22 percent) — this is in
- comparison to the one in 10 of their white counterparts and one in seven for households overall.
- 29 percent of Latino children lived in food-insecure households in 2014.
- 15 percent of white, non-Hispanic children live in food-insecure households.
- 27 percent of the 89 majority Hispanic counties fell into the top 10 percent of counties with the highest rates of childhood food insecurity in 2013.
- The 89 counties with majority Hispanic populations compose 3 percent of all U.S. counties.
- Three of the top 10 counties in the nation that had the highest rates of food insecurity for children were majority Hispanic counties.
- Latinos have a greater risk of obesity and diabetes than their black or white counterparts, which can complicate issues of food insecurity.
- Hispanics are at a greater risk of obesity than any other racial and ethnic groups.
- Hispanic men and women have higher lifetime risk estimates for developing diabetes than any other ethnic group.
(Sources: Feeding America, USDA Economic Research Service, U.S. Census Bureau, Feeding America)
Food insecurity exists in every county in the U.S. It is significantly more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas. Fourteen states have statistically significantly higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average of 14.3 percent between 2012 and 2014.
North Carolina: 16.7%
Over 90 percent of the high food insecurity counties are in the South. High food insecurity rates for counties vary by geographic area, but most food insecurity is found in rural areas of the country (2014 numbers).
- Urban: 22.2 percent of counties in metropolitan (urban) areas had high food insecurity rates.
- Suburban: 24.1 percent of counties in micropolitan (suburban) areas had high food insecurity rates.
- Rural: 53.7 percent of counties in nonmetropolitan (rural) areas had high food insecurity rates.
These are the counties with the highest number of food-insecure individuals in 2013:
Los Angeles — 1,452,130
New York (five boroughs, collectively) — 1,360,740
Cook (Chicago) — 761,980
Harris (Houston) — 753,640
Maricopa (Phoenix) — 617,970
Dallas — 472,170
San Diego — 435,560