WASHINGTON, September 20, 2016 — Despite an improving economy, far too many Americans — and, especially, far too many children — still live in households that struggle against hunger, according to a Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) analysis of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015. The report, Food Hardship in America: Households with Children Especially Hard Hit, finds one in five households with children suffers from food hardship nationally, and in nearly half of the states. Among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas analyzed, 45 had food hardship rates above 20 percent for households with children.
“Too many Americans are unable to afford enough food for their families,” said Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “Hunger has serious consequences for anyone, but children are particularly vulnerable as their physical and cognitive development is at risk. These findings are simply unacceptable, especially since there are solutions to end hunger now.”
Key National Findings:
Despite food hardship rates declining in 2015 for both households with children and households without children:
- One in five households with children still suffers from food hardship.
- The food hardship rate for households with children (19.2 percent) is considerably higher than the food hardship rate for households without children (14.2 percent).
Key State Findings:
- Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia had at least one in five households with children that struggled with food hardship.
- Eleven of the 15 states with the worst food hardship rates for households with children were in the Southeast and Southwest.
- In the District of Columbia, the food hardship rate for households with children was more than double the rate for households without children.
Key Findings for the Nation’s Largest Urban Areas (Metropolitan Statistical Areas/MSAs):
Of the 100 large MSAs with Gallup data in 2014 and 2015:
- Forty-five had food hardship rates for households with children above 20 percent.
- Ten had food hardship rates above 25 percent.
- Of the 25 highest food hardship rates for households with children, there were three MSAs in each of the following states: Florida, Ohio, and Tennessee; and two MSAs in each of the following states: California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
- In the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA, the food hardship rate for households with children was more than double the rate for households with children.
Research shows that participation in federal nutrition programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and meals provided during child care, school, afterschool, and summer, mitigates hunger and supports children’s health and learning.
“More must be done to reach more eligible children with federal nutrition programs,” added Weill, noting that barely half of eligible children receive school breakfast. “Greater efforts also must be made to make these strong programs even stronger.”
In its A Plan of Action to End Hunger in America, FRAC recommends a policy path for the nation to reduce the suffering and unnecessary costs caused by struggles with hunger, poverty, and reduced opportunity, including: higher employment rates, more full?time jobs, and better wages and benefits; stronger income supports through unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), refundable tax credits, and other means; and stronger nutrition programs.
About the Gallup Survey
The question Gallup asks is, “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” That question is part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, which also asked respondents how many children lived in their household. In 2015, 176,313 respondents answered these questions, while 176,212 answered them in 2014. FRAC counts “yes” answers to the former question as evidence of food hardship.
In June 2016, FRAC published an analysis of answers to Gallup’s survey in 2015 reporting national, state, and metropolitan statistical area (MSA) rates of food hardship.
In this latest analysis, FRAC looks at the data separately for households with children and households without children.
Note: Maine rates were excluded from this report due to anomalies in the polling data for that state.
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