Feeding America estimates approximately 49 million people - 1 in 6 - received charitable food assistance sometime in 2022
This figure reflects the number of unique individuals estimated to have received food one or more times during the year from charitable food distribution, including distributions from food banks, food pantries, and other private food assistance programs. While Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, distributing 4.9 billion meals in the calendar year 2022, the estimate is designed to account for individuals who participated in any charitable food distribution, both inside and outside of the Feeding America network of food banks, food pantries, and community-based organizations.
Our estimate of charitable food assistance participation, combined with other measures, data, and insights, can help improve understanding of the barriers that keep millions of people from thriving and the programs and resources that exist to help people access enough food for themselves and their families.
Charitable food assistance participation is related to but distinct from food insecurity, which the USDA defines as having limited access to adequate food due to a lack of money or other resources. The economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic had the potential to cause a significant increase in food insecurity in the U.S., but so far, that has not happened. Overall, food insecurity rose slightly in 2020 and fell to the lowest in 2021. (Food insecurity for 2022 data is expected to be published by the USDA in September 2023). These stable food insecurity rates reveal how investment in public (e.g., SNAP, etc.) and private (charitable food) programs collectively helped to keep millions of people from experiencing food insecurity. However, the sunsetting of pandemic-era programs, which already began before the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, may lead to food insecurity levels rising again.