Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.8 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.[i] Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences.
Feeding America addresses child hunger through two national programs:
Back Pack Program
- 15.8 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2013.[i]
- Twenty percent or more of the child population in 38 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2013, according to the most recent data available. The District of Columbia (31%) and Mississippi (29%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.[ii]
- In 2013, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were D.C., Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Georgia.[iii]
- In 2013, the top five states with the lowest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were North Dakota, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Virginia.[iv]
Charitable Food Assistance
- Twelve million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3.5 million of which are ages 5 and under.[v]
- Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children. While almost all (94%) of client households with school-aged children (ages 5-18) report participating in the National School Lunch Program, only 46 percent report participating in the School Breakfast Program.[vi]
- Nearly one in four (24%) client households with children report participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).[vii]
- Half of client households that reported doubling up (housing more than one family in the same living space) in the past 12 months have one or more children that are five years old or younger.
- The majority (53%) of client households that are unstably housed (such as a shelter) have one or more children that are five years old or younger.[viii]
- In 2013, 14.7 million or approximately 20 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.[ix]
Participation in Federal Nutrition Programs
- In fiscal year 2013, 44 percent of all SNAP participants were children under age 18.[x]
- During the 2014 federal fiscal year, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program.[xi] Unfortunately, in 2014 fewer than 2.7 million children participated daily in the Summer Food Service Program.[xii]
[i] Coleman-Jensen, A., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2014). Household Food Security in the United States in 2013. USDA ERS.
[ii] Gundersen, C., A. Satoh, A. Dewey, M. Kato & E. Engelhard. Map the Meal Gap 2015: Food Insecurity and Child Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level. Feeding America, 2015.
[v] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, National Report. August 2014.
[xiii] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, Analysis of restricted-use dataset by the Urban Institute. March 2015.