Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics

Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same. Poverty in the United States is only one of many factors associated with food insecurity. In fact, higher unemployment, lower household assets, and certain demographic characteristics also lead to a lack of access to adequate, nutritious food. Read on for national hunger and poverty facts and statistics, or visit Map the Meal Gap for state-specific information.

Poverty Statistics in the United States[i]

In 2014:

  • 46.7 million people (14.8 percent) were in poverty.
  • 15.5 million (21.1 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
  • 4.6 million (10 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
  • The overall national poverty rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 15.3 percent, as compared with the official poverty rate of 14.8 percent.[ii]
  • Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 48.4 million people living in poverty, nearly 2 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (46.7 million).[iii]

Very Low Food Insecurity & Food Insecurity in the US[iv]

In 2014:

  • 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children.
  • 14 percent of households (17.4 million households) were food insecure.
  • 6 percent of households (6.9 million households) experienced very low food security.
  • Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 19 percent compared to 12 percent.
  • Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (19%), especially households with children headed by single women (35%) or single men (22%), Black non-Hispanic households (26%) and Hispanic households (22%).
  • In 2013, 5.4 million seniors (over age 60), or 9 percent of all seniors were food insecure.[v]
  • Food insecurity exists in every county in the U.S., ranging from a low of 4 percent in Slope County, ND to a high of 33 percent in Humphreys County, MS.[vi]

Fourteen states exhibited statistically significantly higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average of 14.3% between 2012-2014:[vii]

  • Mississippi 22.0%
  • Arkansas 19.9%
  • Louisiana 17.6%
  • Kentucky 17.5%
  • Texas 17.2%
  • Ohio 16.9%
  • Alabama 16.8%
  • Missouri 16.8%
  • North Carolina 16.7%
  • Oklahoma 16.5%
  • Tennessee 16.3%
  • Maine 16.2%
  • Oregon 16.1%
  • Kansas 15.9%

Charitable and Federal Food Assistance Programs

  • In 2014, 61 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major federal food assistance programs –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-formerly Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) -- in the prior month.[viii]
  • Feeding America provides food assistance to an estimated 46.5 million people annually, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. Based on annual income, 72 percent of all Feeding America client households live at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.[ix]
  • Among all Feeding America client households, 55 percent report receiving SNAP benefits.[x] Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Feeding America client households with children under the age of 18 report receiving benefits through WIC.[xi]
  • Nearly all Feeding America client households with school-aged children (94%) receive free or reduced-price school lunch through the National School Lunch Program, whereas less than half of the same population (46%) participate in the School Breakfast Program’s free or reduced-price breakfasts.[xii]

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Unemployment Rates for States
Annual Average Rankings
Year: 2014

Rank

State

Rate

 

United States

6.2

1

North Dakota

2.8

2

Nebraska

3.3

3

South Dakota

3.4

4

Utah

3.8

5

Minnesota

4.1

5

Vermont

4.1

7

New Hampshire

4.3

7

Wyoming

4.3

9

Hawaii

4.4

9

Iowa

4.4

11

Kansas

4.5

11

Oklahoma

4.5

13

Montana

4.7

14

Idaho

4.8

15

Colorado

5.0

16

Texas

5.1

17

Virginia

5.2

18

Wisconsin

5.5

19

Delaware

5.7

19

Maine

5.7

19

Ohio

5.7

22

Maryland

5.8

22

Massachusetts

5.8

22

Pennsylvania

5.8

25

Indiana

6.0

26

Arkansas

6.1

26

Missouri

6.1

26

North Carolina

6.1

29

Washington

6.2

30

Florida

6.3

30

New York

6.3

32

Louisiana

6.4

32

South Carolina

6.4

34

Kentucky

6.5

34

New Mexico

6.5

34

West Virginia

6.5

37

Connecticut

6.6

37

New Jersey

6.6

39

Tennessee

6.7

40

Alabama

6.8

40

Alaska

6.8

42

Arizona

6.9

42

Oregon

6.9

44

Illinois

7.1

45

Georgia

7.2

46

Michigan

7.3

47

California

7.5

48

Rhode Island

7.7

49

District of Columbia

7.8

49

Mississippi

7.8

49

Nevada

7.8

Visit the Child Hunger Fact Sheet for further information on child hunger facts and statistics.

[i] DeNavas-Walt, C. & B.D. Proctor. (2015). Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014. U.S. Census Bureau.

[ii] Short, K (2015). The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2014. (2015). U.S. Census Bureau.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2015). Household Food Security in the United States in 2014. USDA ERS.

[v] Ziliak, J.P. & Gundersen, C. (2015). The State of Senior Hunger in America 2013: An Annual Report, Supplement. National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH).

[vi] 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.

[vii] Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2015). Household Food Security in the United States in 2014. USDA ERS.

[viii] Ibid.

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

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2014 Annual Average Unemployment Rates.

 

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