September 5, 2012

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported today that 16.4 percent of Americans are food insecure. That means 1 in 6 Americans is at risk of hunger.

Nationally, among the more than 50 million Americans facing hunger in the U.S., nearly 17 million are children. There are 2.5 million food insecure households that include at least one senior, according to the USDA. The data was collected in December 2011.

"Although the Great Recession was declared over, we see from the numbers reported today that more than 50 million Americans are still struggling to feed their families," said Matt Knott, interim President and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest anti-hunger organization. "And yet there are some in our nation's capital who are proposing damaging cuts to vital federal nutrition programs that have been proven to reduce household food insecurity."

The report, which also highlights food insecurity at the state level, shows that the number of households struggling with food insecurity remains well above pre-recession totals. In 2007, the number of food insecure individuals was 36 million. The following year that number skyrocketed to 50 million, and has remained at or near that level for the past four years.

Without vital federal nutrition programs, the situation could be much worse.

As unemployment rose during the Great Recession, more people became eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and more eligible people began participating in the program. SNAP responded well during the recession to reach those people in need, and research shows that SNAP benefits help reduce food insecurity and also help to stem the depth and severity of poverty.

Even though unemployment is stuck at over 8 percent nationally and food and gas prices are on the rise, Congress has proposed harsh funding cuts and harmful program changes in the 2012 Farm Bill. They are also considering other deficit reduction proposals that would cause hundreds of thousands of families to see their benefits reduced and millions of individuals to lose benefits completely.

"With so many of our neighbors, friends and family worrying about where their next meal may be coming from, now is not the time to use federal nutrition programs as a trading chip to balance the budget," said Knott.

As the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, Feeding America's network of more than 200 food banks supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors through 61,000 agencies.


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