Fact of the Week: 15.6 million American households were food insecure in 2016


September 6, 2017

An estimated 15.6 million American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2016, meaning they were not always able to provide enough food for all household members. This is the finding of the USDA’s annual report on food security in the U.S., released earlier today. The proportion of households who were food insecure  – 12.3 percent – was basically unchanged from the year before; although there has been a decline since the high in 2011, food insecurity is still above the pre-recession level (11.1 percent in 2007). Black/non-Hispanic household food insecurity rate was 12.8 percent; Hispanic (may be of any race) was 12.7 percent. White non-Hispanic food insecurity was 5.5 percent. For households below the poverty line, food insecurity was 21 percent. Highlights from the report’s executive summary are below.
This data comes out the week before the Census Bureau is set to release poverty, income, health insurance and other 2016 data relevant to those of us in the human needs community. To make sure we’re prepared to use the Census data to make the case for public investments in vital programs we all care about, CHN is hosting a webinar on Thursday, Sept. 7, 3:00-4:30pm ET. You’ll get brilliant predictions and insights about trends. You’ll learn about the wealth of information available, including local, state and national findings. Whether your organization wants to comment on the findings at the time of release or use them all year long, this webinar will give you the tools you need. We hope you’ll join us! Even if you can’t attend the webinar live, register now to receive the recording and materials later.

And now, here are the highlights from the USDA food security report executive summary:

“The estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2016—12.3 percent— was essentially unchanged from 2015 (12.7 percent), but continued a downward trend from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011. Both the cumulative decline in food insecurity from 2011 to 2014 (14.9 to 14.0 percent) and the year-to-year decline from 2014 to 2015 (14.0 to 12.7 percent) were statistically significant, and the downward trend, though slower, continued through 2016. However, the 2016 prevalence of food insecurity was still above the 2007 pre-recession level of 11.1 percent.

    • In 2016, 87.7 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 12.3 percent (15.6 million households) were food insecure. Food-insecure households (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources.
    • In 2016, 4.9 percent of U.S. households (6.1 million households) had very low food security, essentially unchanged from 5.0 percent in 2015. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
    • Children were food insecure at times during the year in 8.0 percent of U.S. households with children (3.1 million households), essentially unchanged from 7.8 percent in 2015. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. As in 2015, the 2016 prevalence of food insecurity among children was near the pre-recession level of 8.3 percent in 2007.
    • While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, in 2016 both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 0.8 percent of households with children (298,000 households), essentially unchanged from 0.7 percent in 2015.
    • Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, women and men living alone, Black- and Hispanic-headed households, and households in principal cities and nonmetropolitan areas.
    • The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from State to State, ranging from 8.7 percent in Hawaii to 18.7 percent in Mississippi in 2014-16. (Data for 3 years were combined to provide more reliable State-level statistics.)
    • The typical (median) food-secure household spent 29 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition. These estimates include food purchases made with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits.
    • About 59 percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that, in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal nutrition assistance programs (SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch Program).”
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