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

  • 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children were food insecure in 2013, for a total of 49.1 million food-insecure Americans.
  • Approximately 19.5% of households with children were food insecure in 2013. Both children and adults experienced food insecurity in approximately half of these food insecure households, or 9.9% of households with children. In the other half, only adults experienced food insecurity.
  • In 2013, 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million households) were food insecure. Of those food-insecure households, 8.7 percent experienced low food security, and 5.6 percent experienced very low food security.

Use of Emergency Food Assistance and Federal Food Assistance Programs

  • An estimated 5.1 percent of all U.S. households (6.2 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times in 2013.
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provided 637 million pounds of food to emergency food providers in 2013.
  • Around 62.0 percent of all food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs in 2013—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).
Sources
Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2013
Household Food Security in the United States in 2013

Warehouse photoFirst 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.

Attention Emergency Food Organizations

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