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Predicted prevalence of five chronic diseases increased as household food security worsened

Monday, January 8, 2024

Adults in U.S. households that are less food secure are significantly more likely to have one or more chronic diseases, and the likelihood increases as food insecurity worsens. Researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) recently updated estimates of the fraction of working-age adults with chronic disease in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty level based on food security status using data from 2019–22. They looked at the rate of five chronic diseases across four levels of household food security, ranging from high food security (households with no problems or anxiety about consistently obtaining adequate food) to very low food security (eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake reduced). From 2019–22, predicted illness prevalences among the five chronic diseases examined were 3.6 to 9.5 percentage points higher for adults in very low food-secure households compared with those in high food-secure households. This shows that food security status and health are closely linked. This chart updates information in the Amber Waves article, Adults in Households With More Severe Food Insecurity Are More Likely To Have a Chronic Disease, published in October 2017, and in the ERS report Food Insecurity, Chronic Disease, and Health Among Working-Age Adults, published in July 2017.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with older adults increased in 2022

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

In 2022, 9.1 percent of U.S. households with adults aged 65 and older were food insecure at some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. The prevalence of food insecurity in households with adults aged 65 and older in 2022 was statistically significantly higher than the 7.1 percent in 2021 and the 6.9 percent in 2020. USDA, Economic Research Service monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. The survey does not include older adults residing in assisted living facilities. In 2022, 11.4 percent of households with an adult aged 65 and older living alone were food insecure, which is statistically significantly higher than the prevalence in 2021 of 9.5 percent and in 2020 of 8.3 percent. Very low food security is a more severe form of food insecurity in which the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year. The 2022 prevalence of very low food security in households with adults aged 65 and older was 3.4 percent, statistically significantly higher than the 2.8 percent in 2021 and the 2.5 percent in 2020. Household food security data by various demographic categories, such as older adults, are available in the report Household Food Security in the United States in 2022, published in October 2023.

More than half of all food-insecure households work full time

Thursday, December 7, 2023

In 2022, over half of all food-insecure households in the United States had one or more adult members employed full time. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of U.S. household food insecurity through an annual survey and provides information about the characteristics of food-insecure households, including their employment status. The employment status for each household is measured using the combined employment status of all adult household members. In 2022, households with adults employed full-time made up the largest share of food-insecure households at 55 percent, a share that has remained stable since 2017. Households with one or more adults employed part time because it was the only job available (called part time for economic reasons) comprised the smallest share of food-insecure households at 2 percent. The remaining food-insecure households had one or more adults who were retired, employed part time for non-economic reasons, unemployed, disabled, or not in the labor force. An interactive visualization and the underlying downloadable data for prevalence, severity (low and very low food security), and distribution of food insecurity by household employment status can be found on the ERS Interactive Charts and Highlights page.

Food insecurity ranged from 6.2 percent in New Hampshire to 16.6 percent in Arkansas in 2020–22

Monday, October 30, 2023

Food-insecure households sometimes have difficulty providing enough food for all their members because they lack resources. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data to generate a larger sample size in each State. This provides more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2020–22 ranged from 6.2 percent in New Hampshire to 16.6 percent in Arkansas. The estimated national 3-year average for all States was 11.2 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was statistically significantly higher than the national average in 6 States (AR, LA, MS, OK, SC, and TX) and statistically significantly lower than the national average in 17 States (CA, CO, HI, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, WA, and WI). In the remaining 27 States and the District of Columbia, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare with national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare with one another. This map appears on ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.

Prevalence of U.S. household food insecurity increased in 2022

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

In 2022, 12.8 percent of U.S. households (17 million) were food insecure at some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. The prevalence of food insecurity in 2022 was statistically significantly higher than the 10.2 percent recorded in 2021 and the 10.5 percent in 2020. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. Very low food security is a more severe form of food insecurity in which the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted. The 2022 prevalence of very low food security was 5.1 percent, statistically significantly higher than the 3.8 percent in 2021 and the 3.9 percent in 2020. This chart appears on ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page and in the ERS report Household Food Security in the United States in 2022, published October 25, 2023.

U.S. households with children headed by single females used food pantries more than others over last two decades

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

During the past 20 years, households with children headed by a single female consistently showed higher average rates of food pantry use than other household types, including male-headed households with children and married couple households with children. The cost of childcare, education, healthcare, housing, and other expenses can strain a family’s budget, leaving less income available for food purchases. This financial strain may lead parents to seek assistance from food pantries to meet their families’ food needs. Food pantries, often affiliated with faith-based organizations, typically provide free food for people to take home and prepare. The use of food pantries increased in 2009 during the end of the Great Recession and increased in 2020 during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with average rates increasing more than any previous year. In 2021, 7 percent of households with children used food pantries at some point during the year, compared with 5.6 percent of all households. Among households with children, 4.4 percent of married-couple households used food pantries, while 13.8 percent of single female-headed households and 8 percent of single male-headed households used them. Food pantry use among households with children headed by females fluctuated from 9.4 percent in 2001 to 18.3 percent in 2020. The data for this chart come from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s 2001-2021 annual reports on Household Food Security in the United States. The release of the 2022 Household Food Security in the United States report and corresponding statistical supplement is scheduled for October 25, 2023, because of updates to the survey instrument implemented in 2022.

Child food insufficiency continues to vary widely across racial and ethnic groups

Thursday, April 6, 2023

In March 2023, 22.8 percent of Black non-Hispanic households reported that their children sometimes or often did not have enough to eat during the past week. Additionally, 19.5 percent of Hispanic households, 13.1 percent of Other non-Hispanic, 10.1 percent of Asian non-Hispanic, and 8.1 percent of White non-Hispanic households reported child food insufficiency. The Household Pulse Survey, which provides these food insufficiency estimates, was developed through a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau to produce timely information on the economic and social effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on U.S. households. Households were classified as having child food insufficiency if the adult survey respondent said children in the household were not eating enough “sometimes” or “often” in the last 7 days because the household could not afford enough food. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Hispanic households with children peaked in April 2022 at 29.7 percent, while Black non-Hispanic households with children experienced similarly high rates in May (29.2 percent), June (28.7 percent), and July (30.0 percent) of 2022. In contrast, White non-Hispanic households with children experienced a high of just more than 10 percent in August 2022, and Asian households with children reached a high of 13.7 percent in June 2022. The prevalence of child food insufficiency for Other non-Hispanic households with children has fluctuated between these two groups during the same time period. While the prevalence of child food insufficiency for some groups declined from peak levels by March 2023, it continues to affect certain groups more than others. For more information on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s food security research and comparisons of food insecurity and food insufficiency measurements, see the Food Security in the U.S. topic page on the website. This chart appears on the Food Sufficiency During the Pandemic trending topics page.

Child food insecurity declined significantly among Hispanic households with children in 2021

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Households with food insecurity among children are defined as those that were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children because of a lack of resources. In 2021, food insecurity among children showed an overall statistically significant decline for U.S. households with children. A household is classified by the race and ethnicity of the household reference person, or the adult in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. The prevalence rates of child food insecurity for Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic households with children historically have been higher than the rate for all households with children, a trend that continued in 2021. For households with children headed by Hispanic reference persons, food insecurity among children fell to 9.7 percent from 12.2 percent in 2020, a statistically significant decline. For Black, non-Hispanic households with children, the 12 percent rate of food insecurity among children in 2021 was not significantly different from the 13 percent reported in 2020. Food insecurity among children in households with White, non-Hispanic reference persons also had a significant decline. Households that fall into the Other, non-Hispanic category are headed by reference persons that identify as Native American, Asian American, multiple-race American, or other. Other, non-Hispanic households experienced food insecurity rates among children near the national average in 2021 and not significantly different from 2020. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Interactive Charts and Highlights.

Disability status can affect food security among U.S. households

Monday, November 14, 2022

In 2021, households that included an adult with disabilities reported higher food insecurity rates than households with no adults with disabilities. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. In 2021, for U.S. households that included an adult out of the labor force because of a disability, 28 percent were food insecure (low and very low food security). Among U.S. households with an adult age 18-64 who reported a disability but was not out of the labor force because of it, 24 percent were food insecure. In contrast, 7 percent of households with adults without disabilities were food insecure in 2021. Households that include at least one adult 65 and over who reported a disability had food insecurity prevalence rates similar to households with adults without disabilities (9 percent). Very low food security, the more severe form of food insecurity in which normal eating patterns were disrupted and the food intake of some household members was reduced, was also higher for households that included adults with disabilities. In 2021, the prevalence rate of very low food security for households that included adults not in the labor force because of a disability was more than five times that of households that included adults without disabilities (13 percent compared with 2 percent of households). Households that include adults ages 18–64 with a disability, but not out of the labor force because of the disability, also experienced higher prevalence rates of very low food insecurity at 10 percent. This chart appears in USDA, Economic Research Service’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page.

Schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods after school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012

Monday, October 24, 2022

About 100,000 U.S. public and private nonprofit schools participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), which served about 4.9 billion lunches in fiscal year 2019. The majority of foods served through the NSLP are bought through typical market channels, such as foodservice distributors, with USDA cash reimbursements to schools supporting their purchase. However, schools also make use of the USDA Foods in Schools Program (USDA Foods). Schools have two options for acquiring fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods: USDA Foods purchased by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which supplies mainly canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and fresh fruits and vegetables distributed through the USDA Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh). After school meal nutrition standards were updated in 2012, schools were required to serve more fruits and a wider mix of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables. Following the change in standards, schools obtained more fruits and vegetables through USDA Foods and especially through DoD Fresh. While there was no clear change in the types of foods chosen from 2006 to 2012, the percent of USDA Foods entitlement funds used for purchasing fruits and vegetables from DoD Fresh rose sharply from 6.7 percent of total USDA Foods in 2012 to 15 percent in 2017. Fruit obtained through AMS—mainly canned and frozen—rose from 9.4 percent of total USDA Foods spending in 2012 to 15.4 percent in 2017. Vegetables obtained from USDA’s AMS slightly rose from 2012 to 2017. As the percentage of spending on fruits and vegetables increased, the percentage spent on meat, poultry, and cheese dropped from nearly 74 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2017. This chart appears in the ERS report, Trends in USDA Foods Ordered for Child Nutrition Programs Before and After Updated Nutrition Standards, released September 1, 2022.

Food insecurity rates differ across U.S. States

Monday, September 19, 2022

USDA monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are obtained by averaging 3 years of data. This approach generates a larger sample size in each State and provides more reliable statistics that allow more precise estimates and more power to detect differences across States. Food-insecure households are those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all members of the house due to a lack of resources. Food insecurity rates vary across States because of household-level characteristics, State-level characteristics, and State-level policies. The estimated prevalence rates of food insecurity during 2019-21 ranged from 5.4 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi. The estimated national average was 10.4 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was significantly higher than the national average in nine States (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, SC, TX, and WV) and lower than the national average in the District of Columbia and 14 States (CA, IA, MA, MD, MN, ND, NH, NJ, PA, RI, SD, VA, VT, and WA). In the remaining 27 States, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. An interactive food insecurity map can be found on ERS’s Interactive Charts and Highlights page that allows users to view two measures of food insecurity over multiple years for each State. Users can also hover over the map to see State trends in food insecurity, how States compare to national food insecurity prevalence rates, and how States compare to each other. This map appears in ERS’s Key Statistics & Graphics page.

Food insecurity in U.S. households with children reached two-decade low in 2021

Monday, September 12, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households with children by measuring food insecurity for the household overall, as well as for adults and children separately. The first measure, food insecurity in households with children, indicates that at least one person in the household—whether an adult, a child, or both—was food insecure. The second measure, food insecurity among children, indicates that households were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Both annual measures improved in 2021. In 2021, 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure, a significant decrease from 14.8 percent in 2020 and the lowest point in two decades. The decline means that in 2021 nearly 2.5 million fewer children lived in households that had difficulty at times providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. Food insecurity among children in these households declined significantly as well. The prevalence of food insecurity among children in 2021 was 6.2 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2020. The most severe category of food insecurity, called very low food security among children, affected 0.7 percent of households with children in 2021, not significantly different from the 2020 prevalence rate of 0.8 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

U.S. household food insecurity in 2021 unchanged from 2020

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. In 2021, 89.8 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining 10.2 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 3.8 percent that experienced very low food security. In households reporting very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for obtaining food. The 2021 prevalence of food insecurity, at 10.2 percent, was statistically unchanged from 2020. Very low food security was not significantly different from its 3.9-percent rate in 2020. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2021, released September 7, 2022.

Prevalence of child food insecurity increased significantly among Hispanic households with children in 2020

Monday, April 4, 2022

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. Food-insecure households are defined as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all of their members because of a lack of resources. Households with food insecurity among children, labeled as having child food insecurity, were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. A household is classified by the race and ethnicity of the household reference person, or the adult in the household in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. Households with children headed by Hispanic reference persons saw statistically significant increases in food insecurity among children in 2020, increasing to 12.2 percent in 2020 from 7.8 percent in 2019. In 2020, food insecurity among children affected 13.0 percent of Black, non-Hispanic households. That prevalence was significantly above the 2020 national average, but not significantly different from the 2019 prevalence for Black, non-Hispanic households. The prevalence of food insecurity among children in Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic households has been historically higher than the prevalence for all households with children. Households that fall into the Other, non-Hispanic category of race and ethnicity are headed by reference persons that identify as Native American, Asian American, multiple-race American, or other. In 2020, the only race and ethnicity category statistically significantly below the national average of 7.6 percent for food insecurity among children was White, non-Hispanic households. This chart appears in ERS’s Amber Waves article, Food Insecurity for Households With Children Rose in 2020, Disrupting Decade-long Decline, February 2022.

Food insecurity rates vary across States

Monday, February 28, 2022

Food-insecure households are defined as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. USDA monitors the extent of food insecurity in U.S. households at the national and State levels through an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey. State-level estimates are then obtained by averaging 3 years of data to generate more reliable statistics. State food insecurity rates vary because of State-level characteristics such as population, policies, and economic conditions. The estimated prevalence of food insecurity during 2018–20 ranged from 5.7 percent in New Hampshire to 15.3 percent in Mississippi. The estimated national average was 10.7 percent. The prevalence of food insecurity was significantly higher than the national average in 9 States (AL, KY, LA, MS, NM, OK, TN, TX, and WV) and lower than the national average in 15 States (CA, HI, IA, IL, MA, MN, ND, NH, NJ, OR, RI, SD, VA, VT, and WA). In the remaining 26 States and the District of Columbia, differences from the national average were not statistically significant. This map appears in the Food Security and Nutrition Assistance section of the Economic Research Service’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

SNAP spending contributed to rural economic output and jobs following the Great Recession

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income U.S. households assistance to buy food items, which helps to support the economy during periods of high unemployment. Researchers at USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) studied the effect SNAP benefits had on the rural and urban economies during the period of high unemployment following the Great Recession from 2009–14. They found household spending of SNAP benefits contributed disproportionately more to the rural economy. SNAP benefits can only be used on food items—farm goods (such as fruits, vegetables, and milk) and processed foods (such as breads and pastas)—but using them frees up money to spend on other nonfood items. ERS researchers found SNAP benefit spending caused a ripple effect that helped to support local jobs and contributed to economic output through the production of goods and services. During the 6-year period, average annual SNAP benefit expenditures of $71 billion (in 2014 dollars) generated an annual increase in rural economic output of $49 billion and an urban output of $149 billion. Expenditures supported the employment of 279,000 rural workers and 811,000 urban workers. When measured in total dollars and numbers of jobs, household spending of SNAP benefits generated larger economic impacts in the urban economy. However, when measured as a share of total economic output and employment, SNAP generated larger relative impacts in the rural economy. Household expenditures of SNAP benefits increased rural economic output annually by 1.25 percent and rural employment by 1.18 percent. For the urban economy, SNAP benefits increased economic output by 0.53 percent and employment by 0.50 percent. This chart appears in the Amber Waves finding USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Contributed to Rural Economic Output, Jobs Following the Great Recession, released December 7, 2021.

U.S. population subgroups see changes in food insecurity from 2019 to 2020 while overall rate remains the same

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the incidence and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households annually. Food insecurity means that households were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members because of insufficient money and other resources. In 2020, the national prevalence of food insecurity was unchanged from 2019 at 10.5 percent. However, some population subgroups experienced changes in the prevalence of food insecurity from 2019 to 2020. For all households with children, the prevalence of food insecurity increased to 14.8 percent in 2020 from 13.6 percent in 2019. Households with Black, non-Hispanic reference persons (an adult household member in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented) saw an increase in the prevalence of food insecurity to 21.7 percent in 2020 from 19.1 percent in 2019. Married-couple families with children and households in the South also saw higher rates of food insecurity. However, a few population subgroups saw declines in the prevalence of food insecurity from 2019 to 2020, including women living alone; men living alone; households with White, non-Hispanic reference persons; and households in the Midwest. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021.

Food insecurity in late 2020 most prevalent among those unable to look for work because of pandemic

Friday, November 19, 2021

Food insecurity among U.S. households was substantially higher in late 2020 when people were unable to work or were prevented from looking for work because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The annual Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, sponsored by USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), collected information on food security among the Nation’s households in December 2020. The survey included questions about effects of the pandemic on work activities during the prior 4 weeks. Households experiencing food insecurity in the 30 days before the survey reported they had difficulty providing enough food for all their household members because of a lack of resources. From mid-November to mid-December 2020, households with a reference person (an adult household member in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented) who was not employed (unemployed or not in the labor force) had a higher prevalence of food insecurity at 8.0 percent compared with all U.S. households (5.7 percent). Those with an employed reference person had a lower food insecurity prevalence at 4.2 percent. For households with a reference person unable to work because of the pandemic, the prevalence of food insecurity was 16.4 percent, substantially higher than the national average of 5.7 percent. The same is true for households that had an unemployed reference person who was prevented from looking for work because of the pandemic, with a food insecurity prevalence of 20.4 percent. The statistics appearing in this chart are included in a table in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021. A similar figure appears in ERS interactive charts on food security.

U.S. household food insecurity remained unchanged in 2020

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

In 2020, 10.5 percent of U.S. households were food insecure at least some time during the year, meaning they had difficulty providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources. That prevalence of food insecurity was unchanged from 2019, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), which monitors the food security status of households in the United States through an annual nationwide survey. Of the 10.5 percent of households that were food insecure, 3.9 percent experienced very low food security, not significantly different from 4.1 percent in 2019. In households with very low food security, the food intake of one or more household members is reduced and their eating patterns are disrupted at times because the household lacks money and other resources for obtaining food. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began in the United States in 2020 and affected public health and the economy. Policy makers modified existing nutrition assistance programs and created new programs, and charitable organizations provided additional aid. Research studies conducted before the pandemic have shown that such increases can reduce food insecurity. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021.

Food insecurity among U.S. children increased in 2020

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) monitors the prevalence of food insecurity in U.S. households and breaks out data for households with children as well as children within these households. In 2020, the prevalence of food insecurity increased among U.S. households with children even though food insecurity for all households—those with and without children—remained about the same as the previous year. In 2020, 14.8 percent of households with children were food insecure, up from 13.6 percent in 2019. Children were food insecure in 7.6 percent of households with children in 2020, up from 6.5 percent in 2019. Households with food insecurity among children were classified as such because they were unable at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. ERS researchers also found an increase in the most severe category of food insecurity—very low food security among children. In 2020, the share of households with children with very low food security among children was 0.8 percent, up from 0.6 percent in 2019. In that group, households reported that at times during the year children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food. Monitoring children’s food security helps inform and improve USDA’s federally funded child nutrition programs. This chart appears in the ERS report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2020, released September 8, 2021.