Fact of the Week: 1 in 6 Households Struggled with Food Hardship in 2015


July 7, 2016

Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food for you or your family?
Gallup put this question to nearly 118,000 households throughout the United States in 2015 as part of an annual survey aimed at measuring food hardship in our country. The result? 1 in 6 households answered yes, that they did struggle to afford enough food for themselves or their family.

A new report published by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) titled “How Hungry Is America?” highlights two key findings from the Gallup survey. The first is that food hardship has been decreasing since the recession and is at its lowest point – down from almost 19 percent in 2013 to 16 percent in 2015 – since the survey began in 2008. The second is that despite this decrease, 16 percent answered “yes” to this question — which is no different than the rate of food hardship reported right before the recession began. The results reflect the fact that there are still too many individuals and families in the richest country in the world struggling to afford enough food.

According to the report, the decrease is a result of a lower unemployment rate, a rise in the number of eligible families actually receiving SNAP, the effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit and refundable Child Tax Credit, and the implementation of Medicaid expansion as well as elements of the Affordable Care Act that have made health care more affordable for low-income and vulnerable populations.

However the fact that 1 in 6 families struggle with food hardship is unacceptable, proving that while our country has mostly recovered from the recession, there are many who have been left behind.  Causes are many, including the fact that many families have insufficient resources and are forced to spend their (too low) paychecks on other necessities such as housing, childcare, or medical bills. And the benefits that do exist are inadequate.  Examples include a SNAP allotment that doesn’t last the full month and Social Security for low-income retirees.

Also important is the fact that hunger doesn’t discriminate based on geography: “Food hardship is not an isolated or concentrated phenomenon,” the report states. “At least 15 percent of households were suffering from food hardship in 25 states and in 72 out of 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.” Moreover, hunger has profound impacts on people of all ages, affecting health, development, academic achievement, as well as productivity and “is a serious national problem what requires a serious national response.”

Our response is lacking but the solutions are clear.  The report emphasizes that in order to end hunger in America we must increase the minimum wage to a living wage, provide benefits to workers earning the minimum wage, strengthen income supports and expand the nutrition programs so that people receiving SNAP can actually afford enough food throughout the month.  We can end hunger in America. We must muster the willpower to do so – and implement smart policies to ensure that nutritious food is never out of reach for millions of Americans.

To read all of the solutions that FRAC proposes you can read the full report here.

Fact of the Week
Food and Nutrition
Poverty and Income