WASHINGTON, September 5, 2012- The percentage of food insecure households in the United States remained essentially unchanged from 2010 to 2011, while the percentage with “very low” food security increased, according to a USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) report released today. The ERS survey indicated that one-third of all food insecure households had “very low” food security in 2011. 

In 2011, 85.1 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year with access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining 14.9 percent, or 17.9 million households, were food insecure. Food insecure households are those with “low” and “very low” food security, according to ERS. Food-insecure families had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. 

Although the overall change in food insecurity from 14.5 percent in 2010 was not statistically significant, the report indicated that the prevalence rate of “very low” food security increased from 5.4 percent in 2010, returning to the level observed in 2008 and 2009.

In 2011, 5.7 percent of U.S. households, or 6.8 million households and one-third of all food insecure households, had “very low” food security. In these households, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.

The typical food secure household spent 24 percent more for food than the typical food insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamp. USDA reports a record amount of people on food stamps with more than 46 million individuals receiving SNAP benefits in June.

ERS reported that 57 percent of all food insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2011 survey.

Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and other outlying areas around large cities, according to the ERS survey. Increases in the prevalence of “very low” food security were greatest for women living alone, Black households, and households with annual incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line.

Children were food insecure at times during the year in 10 percent of households with children, or 3.9 million households, essentially unchanged from 9.8 percent in 2010.

“While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in one percent of households with children (374,000 households) in 2011, unchanged from 2010,” stated the report. 


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