Food Security and Nutrition Assistance

ERS monitors the food security of U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey. While most U.S. households are food secure, a minority of U.S. households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning that their access to adequate food for active, healthy living is limited by lack of money and other resources. Some experience very low food security, a more severe range of food insecurity where food intake of one or more members is reduced and normal eating patterns are disrupted. Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of USDA’s 15 food and nutrition assistance programs aimed at reducing food insecurity.

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs reached a new high in 2020

Federal spending on USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $122.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2020, or 32 percent more than the previous fiscal year. This amount surpassed the previous inflation-adjusted historical high of $119.8 billion, set in FY 2013. Combined spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and related Nutrition Assistance Programs (NAP) increased by 28 percent from FY 2019 to FY 2020. Combined spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) decreased by 6 percent. Combined spending on child nutrition programs decreased by 9 percent. Spending on two new, temporary programs that were created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program—accounted for 11 percent of the total in FY 2020.