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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  • Report

    Poverty and food insecurity have detrimental impacts on infant, child, and maternal health and well-being in both the short and long terms. One critical strategy to address these issues is connecting vulnerable families to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Decades of research have demonstrated the effectiveness of WIC in reducing food insecurity, and improving health, nutrition, development, and well-being.

    WIC is a Critical Economic, Nutrition, and Health Support for Children and Families provides background information on WIC; briefly summarizes the harmful impacts of poverty and food insecurity; and highlights research demonstrating the effective role of WIC in improving food and economic security, dietary intake, weight outcomes, health, and learning.

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  • Report

    The WIC food packages were revised in 2007 to align the authorized food with the latest nutrition science and guidance. The majority of WIC participants are satisfied with the revised food packages in terms of the new foods offered and changes in the amounts of food. As summarized in this brief, Impact of the Revised WIC Food Packages on Nutrition Outcomes and the Retail Food Environment, research shows that the revised WIC food packages have favorable impacts on dietary intake, breastfeeding outcomes, and obesity rates. In addition, also as summarized in this brief, studies suggest an important role for WIC in improving neighborhood food environments, which benefits both WIC participants and non-participants.

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  • Best Practice

    Unemployed or underemployed adults without dependents and without other exemptions (such as disability) often face time limits after three months of receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In this best practice, learn how partnering with health professionals, advocates, application assistance providers, and others can help individuals who are struggling against hunger to continue to receive benefits from SNAP when they might otherwise be improperly subjected to three-month time limits as so-called “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (ABAWD).

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  • Report

    Making WIC Work Better features a comprehensive set of recommendations to overcome the barriers that have led to a downward trend in participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

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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.