Report shows hunger decreasing but not to pre-recession levels

By Spencer Chase

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2014 - A study released today by USDA's Economic Research Service says more than 17.5 million Americans struggled with hunger in 2013, down slightly from 17.6 million the previous year.

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To put it another way, 14.3 percent, or about or one in seven of American households and individuals were considered to be food insecure last year, well above the 11.1 percent observed in 2007, before a recession forced more than 4 million people into food insecurity, according to USDA. 

Food insecurity is described as the inability to afford an adequate diet at least some times in the 12-month period. Diving a little deeper into the numbers, 26.1 percent of African-American households were considered to be food insecure during 2013, as were 23.7 percent of Hispanic households, and 19.5 percent of households with children.

Food and Research Action Center President Jim Weill said it will take action in Washington to fix the nation's food insecurity problem.

“Hunger continues to plague too many Americans. We can end hunger in this country, but that takes political will,” Weill said in a release. “That means strengthening, not cutting or limiting nutrition programs.”

A state-by-state breakdown shows Arkansas had the highest percentage of food insecurity in the country from 2011-2013, at 21.2 percent, with 8.4 percent of the state's population dealing with  “very low food insecurity” during that period. That means that 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 food.

Mississippi ranked second in food insecurity, at 21.2 percent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, North Dakota had 8.7 percent food insecurity, the lowest in the nation. For state food insecurity rates, USDA uses three-year averages for states to obtain adequate sample sizes.

In all, food insecurity decreased in 24 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Weill said working to end food insecurity across the nation is a worthwhile endeavor.

“Ending hunger is an investment that our nation should - and must - make,” Weill said.

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