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), 13.1 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.

Food Insecurity

  • 13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2015.[i]
  • Twenty percent or more of the child population in 22 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to the most recent data available. Mississippi (26%) had the highest rate of children in households without consistent access to food.[ii]
  • In 2015, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and Arizona.[iii]
  • In 2015, the top five states with the lowest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were North Dakota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia.[iv]

Charitable Food Assistance

  • Twelve million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3.5 million of whom 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]

Poverty Statistics

  • In 2015, 14.5 million or approximately 20 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.[ix]

Participation in Federal Nutrition Programs

  • In fiscal year 2015, nearly 20 million or 44 percent of all SNAP participants were children under age 18.[x]
  • During the 2015 federal fiscal year, 22 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program.[xi] Unfortunately, in 2015 fewer than 4 million children participated daily in the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option.[xii]

- See the picture of child hunger through the eyes of Zoey, a little girl who receives assistance
- Make a gift to help shift these child hunger statistics

Feeding America addresses child hunger through two national programs, both supplementing hunger in school-aged children:

Kids Cafe
Back Pack Program

[i] Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2016). Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. USDA ERS.

[ii] Gundersen, C., A. Dewey, A. Crumbaugh, M. Kato & E. Engelhard. Map the Meal Gap 2017: A Report on County and Congressional District Food Insecurity and County Food Cost in the United States in 2015. Feeding America, 2017.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, National Report. August 2014.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, Analysis of restricted-use dataset by the Urban Institute. March 2015.

[ix] Proctor, B.D., J.L. Semega, & M.A. Kollar. (2016). Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015. U.S. Census Bureau.


Stay Informed

Get email updates about what we're doing to help solve hunger and how you can help.