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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  • Infographic

    Use this video and these infographics on social media to support National Comment Day, November 19, 2018.

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  • Best Practice

    Many school districts and a number of state policies include providing a reimbursable school lunch to students regardless of their ability to pay. These districts can take important steps to reduce or eliminate the school meal debt that this approach can incur. Strategies include offering school breakfast, school lunch or breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students when it is financially viable; taking steps to ensure that all students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals are certified to receive them; implementing USDA policies that can help reduce school meal debt; and responding quickly when students begin to accrue debt.

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  • Interactive Data Tool

    This interactive map, produced in collaboration with the AARP Foundation, shows the share of all households with seniors (60+) in each state that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the state, metropolitan, small town, and rural levels.

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  • Interactive Data Tool

    This interactive map, produced in collaboration with the AARP Foundation, shows the share of all households with seniors (60+) that participate in SNAP in each county. Each county within a state is grouped into one of three categories: Metro, Small Town, and Rural.

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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.