New Report Finds that More Americans, Particularly Children, are at Risk of Hunger
In every part of the nation, a large number of households is experiencing food hardship — the inability to afford enough food for themselves and their families — according to “How Hungry is America?” a new report by the Food Research & Action Center. The report reveals that, after several years of decline, the national food hardship rate for all households increased from 15.1 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017.
Poverty Data Highlight the Need for a Strong Safety Net
The U.S. household poverty rate decreased in 2017, according to today’s Census Bureau annual release of income, poverty, and health insurance data. The poverty rate went from 12.7 percent in 2016 to 12.3 percent in 2017, a decline that returns the poverty rate (after a decade) to the statistical equivalent of the pre-recession rate in 2007.
- More than 40.0 million Americans live in households that struggle against hunger.
- Households in more rural areas face considerably deeper struggles with hunger than those inside metropolitan areas.
- Nearly one in six households with children cannot buy enough food for their families.
- 39.7 million people (12.3 percent) lived in poverty in 2017, down from 12.7 percent from the year before.
- 17.5 percent of children under 18 lived in poverty in 2017.
- The 2017 poverty rate was 21.2 percent for the Black population and 18.3 percent for the Hispanic population.
Who is impacted by hunger?
Solutions Exist to End Hunger & Poverty
Hunger in America is a serious issue that requires a serious response. When there is talk about improving opportunities for all Americans through education, health care, and the economy, addressing hunger and poverty must be a part of that conversation.
EducationThe last thing on a hungry child’s mind is learning. Children are better equipped to learn when they have the nutrition they need. Yet too many low-income children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals are not accessing them. More must be done to increase participation in school meals, summers meals, afterschool meals, and child care meals.
Health careResearch shows that food insecurity is linked with costly chronic diseases and unfavorable outcomes. According to the Root Cause Coalition, the annual costs of hunger to the U.S. health care system are $130.5 billion. Greater investments in nutrition programs would go a long way in addressing obesity and other negative health outcomes faced by low-income Americans.
EconomySNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger for millions of Americans. The program also stimulates the economy. Recent census data shows that SNAP lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016. In addition, USDA research shows that each $5 of SNAP benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity. Federal nutrition programs can’t do it alone. There must be a comprehensive approach.
Recent Publications & DataSee More Resources
- Advocacy ToolLeave Behind: Refundable Tax Credits Are Critical To Reducing Poverty and Hunger For Women, Children, and Families and Should Be Expanded
Federal tax credits, like the EITC and refundable CTC, provide critical supports for millions of working women, children, and families every year. They supplement low wages and can help soften the financial impact of fluctuating incomes or job losses. These credits are especially important for communities of color and women.Read more
- Advocacy Tool
Includes: The Strength of SNAP and SNAP Action Needed; The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP); Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP); Child Nutrition ReauthorizationRead more
- Advocacy Tool
Restoring the value of the minimum wage — and helping families cover basic needs — is essential to addressing hunger. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not increased since 2009. A more adequate minimum wage would foster the nation’s economic strength and growth to be shared in more equitable ways. Low-income workers and their families would benefit the most from a higher minimum wage, leading to reduced poverty, hunger, and income inequality.
From FRAC, the Economic Policy Institute, and the National Employment Law Project.Read more
- ReportSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Initiatives to Make SNAP Benefits More Adequate Significantly Improve Food Security, Nutrition, and Health
The monthly benefits provided by SNAP enhance the foodpurchasing power of eligible low-income individuals and families. However, as described by many studies, including one by the Institute of Medicine, the greatest shortcoming of SNAP is that benefits for most households are not enough to get through the entire month without hunger or being forced to sacrifice nutrition quality. This limitation persists even in the face of overwhelming evidence on the gains from more adequate monthly SNAP benefits.
This paper briefly analyzes why SNAP benefits are inadequate, reviews the body of research showing positive effects from more adequate SNAP benefits, and concludes with some of the key policy solutions that can improve benefit adequacy.Read the report