According to a new Department of Agriculture report, American families continue to struggle with hunger at the same recorded rate as last year. However, the level of food insecurity – difficulty feeding one or more family members because of lack of money – is at the highest recorded level since the federal government began keeping track of the statistic in 1995.
Nearly 15 percent of U.S. households suffered food insecurity
In 2009, 14.7 percent of American households met the qualifications for food insecurity status. That’s 17.4 million households, or roughly 45 million people. One-third of those households earned the dubious distinction of having “very low food security,” says the Department of Agriculture.
Not enough money for food
Food insecure households cited in the study typically went as least a few days per month over a seven-month period with moderate to severe food problems. Those households run by single parents were significantly more likely to experience food security troubles than two-parent homes. African-American and Hispanic households were more prone to food insecurity, as were households in suburbs and outlying rural areas.
Benefits for food insecure households
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of households that qualified as food insecure according to the Department of Agriculture’s study were on some form of federal assistance. Specifically, these households benefit from one or more of the following initiatives: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the National School Lunch Program, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program saw an 18.7 percent increase in benefits granted last year, while the lunch program (5.4 percent) and WIC (5.8 percent) also showed significant gains.
The Department of Agriculture’s annual report emphasizes the importance of such federal benefits programs, some of which face the possibility of being trimmed down as the Obama administration’s bipartisan committee looks to tame the federal deficit. USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon told CNN that the increasing numbers of people claiming benefits should outline just how critical such programs are to the well-being of American families. Opponents of such programs, however, would highlight the need for tighter restrictions as to how benefits may be used.