One in Six Americans Living in Households that Struggle Against Hunger

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            
Contact: Jennifer Adach, 202.986.2200 x3018

Washington, D.C. – September 4, 2013 – More than 48.9 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2012, according to new data released today by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity in the U.S. Of them, 15.8 million are children (21.6 percent of all children). Previously, in 2011, 50.1 million Americans were in food insecure households.

While the new data show a slight dip in the number of people living in food insecure households, the USDA report noted that the overall rate of food insecurity has remained virtually unchanged since 2008. The number of people living in households with very low food security – the worst off households – increased slightly, rising from 16.8 million in 2011 to 17.1 million in 2012.

Essentially food insecurity spiked at the beginning of the recession, and has stayed elevated ever since. From 2003 to 2007, the annual number of people in food insecure households was in a range of 35.1 million to 38.2 million people. From 2008 to 2012, the range has been 48.8 million to 50.2 million people.

“Hunger was too prevalent before the recession, and these elevated rates continue to plague virtually every community in America. Yet Congress continues to consider outrageous proposals that would add to these numbers,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Congress needs to stop a bidding war over how much to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other low-income programs and start acting on what is going to help struggling, hungry families. And the first step is for Congress to pass a Farm Bill that doesn’t cut SNAP.”

These new food insecurity numbers come as Members of Congress are preparing to return next week from their August recess. The Farm Bill remains on Congress’ agenda, and the House majority leadership – which passed earlier this summer a partial Farm Bill that did not include a nutrition title – is expected to introduce a bill that would strip $40 billion in funding from SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), throwing millions of people out of the program and cutting benefits for many others.

These proposals come on top of cuts already scheduled to inflict pain on every SNAP beneficiary. In November, benefit increases approved in the 2009 economic recovery act will expire for 47 million people – this will mean $36 less in monthly SNAP benefits for a family of four.

The public rejects cuts in SNAP. Recent polling by Hart Research Associates for FRAC shows that Americans of all types oppose cuts to SNAP, and they believe the government should – and must – do more to address hunger.

Current SNAP monthly benefits average the equivalent of $4.50 a day per person – an inadequate level that barely gets families through the whole month, let alone allows them to buy the foods needed for a healthy diet. Recently, the prestigious Institute of Medicine, after a thorough study, outlined the factors that explain why the SNAP allotment is not enough to help most families obtain a minimally adequate diet.

“SNAP is helping many struggling households keep their heads above water. Cutting SNAP would lead to more hunger, worse health and education outcomes, and higher health costs. Fraying our nation’s safety net is the wrong path for Congress to take. It must pass a Farm Bill that helps – not harms – our nation’s hungry and struggling families,” said Weill.

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About the USDA Report

Since 1995, the United States Department of Agriculture, using data from surveys conducted annually by the Census Bureau, has released national and state estimates of the number of people in households that are food insecure. Food insecure households are those that are not able to afford an adequate diet at all times in the past 12 months. For states, USDA uses three-year averages to give a better estimate (with a smaller margin of error) of the number of households experiencing food insecurity. Experts agree that the Census/USDA measure of food insecurity is a conservative one, with the result that only households experiencing substantial food insecurity are so classified.