Food Insecurity in America
“Food insecurity exists whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain.” –S.A. Anderson, ed., “Core Indicators of Nutritional State for Difficult-to-Sample Populations,” The Journal of Nutrition 120:1557S-1600S, 1990.
Socially unacceptable ways to obtain food include, but are not limited to: theft, rummaging, and resorting to emergency food supplies. Food security can be evaluated by four definitions: high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security. The USDA considers families in the low food security and very low food security categories to be food insecure. To determine which category a household is classified to, the household reporter is queried regarding food acquisition. These questions can range from situations that are least severe to the most severe.
Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security
- In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.
- In 2011, 20.6 percent of American households with children experienced food insecurity.
- In 2011, 10 percent of children and adults in households (3.9 million households) with children experienced food insecurity; in 10.6 percent of households with children, only the adults experienced food insecurity.
- In 2011, 14.9 percent of households (17.9 million households) were food insecure.
- In 2011, 5.7 percent of households (6.8 million households) experienced very low food security.
Use of Emergency Food Assistance and Federal Food Assistance Programs
- In 2011, 5.1 percent of all U.S. households (6 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.
- In 2011, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provided 748 million pounds of food to emergency food providers.
- In 2011, 57 percent of all food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly referred to as the Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Measurement of Food Security, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service
Household Food Security in the United States in 2011
Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2011
and foremost, hungry people need good food. Although emergency food organizations
vary greatly in their size, organization management, and clientele, all share a
common goal - to provide safe, nutritious food to those who might otherwise go without.
The more than 150,000 emergency feeding programs that operate in the United States
face many challenges in meeting this goal. Some of these challenges include staff
and volunteers with little or no training in nutrition and safe food; reliance on
salvaged or donated foods, which may be damaged, thus greatly increasing the risk
of possibly hazardous food reaching the consumer; an uncertain food supply that
makes providing an appropriate variety of foods difficult; and diversity of clientele
that make some food inappropriate or unacceptable. Using the educational materials
provided by Indiana’s Emergency Food Resource Network, more emergency food organizations are
prepared to offer safe food for their clients.