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 2015:

  • 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty.
  • 24.4 million (12.4 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
  • 14.5 million (19.7 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
  • 4.2 million (8.8 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
  • The overall poverty rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 14.3 percent, significantly higher than the official poverty rate of 13.5 percent.[ii]
  • Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 45.7 million people living in poverty, 2.6 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (43.1 million).[iii]

Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security[iv]

In 2015:

  • 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
  • 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
  • 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.
  • Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
  • Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%), Black non-Hispanic households (22%) and Hispanic households (19%).
  • Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 3 percent in Grant County, KS to a high of 38 percent in Jefferson County, MS.[v]

In 2014:

  • 5.4million seniors (over age 60), or 9 percent of all seniors were food insecure.[vi]

Twelve states exhibited statistically significantly higher household food-insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2013-2015 (13.7%)[vii]:

  1. Mississippi 20.8 %
  2. Arkansas 19.2 %
  3. Louisiana 18.4 %
  4. Alabama 17.6 %
  5. Kentucky 17.6 %
  6. Ohio 16.1 %
  7. Oregon 16.1 %
  8. North Carolina 15.9 %
  9. Maine 15.8 %
  10. Oklahoma 15.5 %
  11. Texas 15.4 %
  12. Tennessee 15.1 %

Charitable and Federal Food Assistance Programs

  • In 2015, 59 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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Annual Average Rankings of Unemployment Rates for States in 2015[xiii]

RankStateRate
  United States 5.3
1 North Dakota 2.7
2 Nebraska 3.0
3 South Dakota 3.1
4 New Hampshire 3.4
5 Utah 3.5
6 Hawaii 3.6
7 Iowa 3.7
7 Minnesota 3.7
7 Vermont 3.7
10 Colorado 3.9
11 Idaho 4.1
11 Montana 4.1
13 Kansas 4.2
13 Oklahoma 4.2
13 Wyoming 4.2
16 Maine 4.4
16 Virginia 4.4
18 Texas 4.5
19 Wisconsin 4.6
20 Indiana 4.8
21 Delaware 4.9
21 Ohio 4.9
23 Massachusetts 5.0
23 Missouri 5.0
25 Pennsylvania 5.1
26 Arkansas 5.2
26 Maryland 5.2
28 New York 5.3
29 Florida 5.4
29 Kentucky 5.4
29 Michigan 5.4
32 Connecticut 5.6
32 New Jersey 5.6
34 North Carolina 5.7
34 Oregon 5.7
34 Washington 5.7
37 Tennessee 5.8
38 Georgia 5.9
38 Illinois 5.9
40 Rhode Island 6.0
40 South Carolina 6.0
42 Alabama 6.1
42 Arizona 6.1
44 California 6.2
45 Louisiana 6.3
46 Alaska 6.5
46 Mississippi 6.5
48 New Mexico 6.6
49 Nevada 6.7
49 West Virginia 6.7
51 District of Columbia 6.9

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


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

[ii] Renwick, T. & L. Fox (2016). The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015. U.S. Census Bureau.

[iii] Ibid.

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

[v] Gundersen, C., A. Dewey, A. Satoh, 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.

[vi] Ziliak, J.P. & Gundersen, C. (2016.) The State of Senior Hunger in America 2014: An Annual Report, Supplement. National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH).

[vii] Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2016). Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. 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. 2015 Annual Average Unemployment Rates.

 

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