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.

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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.

Quick Facts

  • 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.

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.

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Education
The 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.
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Health care
Research 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.
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Economy
SNAP 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 & Data

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  • Fact Sheet

    Download this document which features these six steps to help engage hospitals on summer meals: 1. Check out a Hospital’s Community Needs Assessment; 2. Contact the Hospital to Discuss Summer Meals; 3. Be a Voice in the Hospital’s Planning; 4. Host a Community Forum; 5. Connect a Hospital with an existing Sponsor and/or Site;
    6. Recruit Hospitals to Help with Outreach.

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  • Report

    Hospitals across the United States are helping fill the nutrition gap during the summer by offering meals to children through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides federal funding for meals and snacks served to low-income children 18 years old and younger when school is not in session. By participating in SFSP, hospitals have an opportunity to help improve child health and combat child hunger.

    Read the report
  • Report

    Community eligibility has become a popular option among eligible schools due to the many benefits it brings to the school nutrition program and the entire school community. In the 2016–2017 school year, more
    than 20,000 high-needs schools with an enrollment of nearly 10 million students had adopted community eligibility.

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  • Report

    Direct certification, an electronic datamatching process, is an important tool for ensuring that low-income children receive free breakfast and lunch without barriers.

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Taking Action
Plan of Action to End Hunger in America
There can be no more excuses for hunger in this country. In our A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America, we recommend eight strategies to reduce the suffering and unnecessary costs caused by struggles with hunger, poverty, and reduced opportunity.