New USDA Report Shows Progress, But Still Too Many Struggling with Hunger

snap-challenge-amanda-groceriesAbout 1 in 8 Coloradans and Americans were, at times, unsure when or where they would get their next meal during 2015, according to new data released by the USDA’s Economic Research Service last week.

The annual report, Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, shows a significant decline in the national rate of food insecurity from 15.4% in 2014 to 13.4% in 2015. While a notable improvement compared to the past few years, the rate is still above pre-recession levels.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • COLORADO
    • More than 1 in 8 Coloradans struggled with hunger, facing times when there is not enough money to buy food.
    • Colorado’s rate of food insecurity decreased 1.5% from last year’s report to 12.1% in 2015. That equates to 2,218,000 households.
    • Colorado’s prevalence of food insecurity was below the U.S. average.

 

  • NATIONAL
    • More than 1 in 8 Americans (42.2+ million) lived in households that were struggling against hunger in 2015, included 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
    • The 2015 numbers represent a significant decline from 2014, with the rate declining from 15.4% to 13.4%. (Last year, it was reported that more than 48.1 million Americans struggled with hunger.)
    • While better than the last few years, this is still above pre-recession levels.
    • 8 million households (12.7%) were food insecure, and 6.3 million households (5%) had very low food security.
    • The number of individuals in households that faced the deepest struggles with hunger (very low food security) was 4.6% in 2015.
    • The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from state to state from 2013-2015, ranging from 8.5% in North Dakota to 20.8% in Mississippi.

 

  • CHILDREN
    • More than 1 in 6 American kids don’t have consistent access to nutritious food.
    • The number of children living in food-insecure households in 2015 improved by more than 2 million, declining from 15.3 million in 2014 to 13.1 million in 2015, with the rate among children declining from 20.9% to 17.9%.
    • This rate is below pre-recession levels, and in fact, is the lowest in any year since this survey began in 1998.
    • Both children and adults were food insecure at times during the year in 7.8% of U.S. households with children (3.0 million households), down significantly from 9.4% in 2014.

 

  • OTHER CHARACTERISTICS
    • Food insecurity was strongly associated with income. For example, 38.3% of American households with annual incomes below the official poverty line were food insecure, compared with 5.8% of those with incomes at or above 185% federal poverty line.
    • The rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for: all households with children; households with kids under the age of 6; households with children headed by single women or single men; women and men living alone; Black- and Hispanic-headed households; households with incomes below 185% of the poverty threshold.
    • Households in more rural areas are experiencing  considerably deeper struggles with hunger compared to those inside metropolitan areas, with higher rates of food insecurity (15.4% compared to 12.2%), higher rates of food insecurity in households with children (20.5 percent compared to 15.9 percent), and higher rates of very low food security (6.1% compared to 4.9%).

 

  • FEDERAL NUTRITION PROGRAMS
    • The typical (median) food-secure household spent 27% more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with SNAP/food stamp benefits.
    • About 59% of food-insecure households in the survey reported that, in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs (SNAP/food stamps, WIC and National School Lunch Program).
    • Food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),  provided assistance to 44.6% of food-insecure households; children in 30.2% of food-insecure households received free or reduced-price school lunches; and women or children in 9.7% of food-insecure households received food vouchers from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
    • About 55% of households classified as having very low food security reported participating in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs, and the largest share of these (44.8%) participated in SNAP/food stamps.

 

This report shows movement in the right direction of reducing hunger across Colorado and the nation. And, it continues to underscore the importance of federal nutrition programs, as well as our role in connecting Coloradans to food resources and fueling change in systems, policies and social views.

 

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