Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers

Photo by Joe Molieri / Bread for the World

Food Insecurity Finally Recovers from the Great Recession, but Progress Remains Too Slow

Federal food insecurity data for 2018, released September 4, 2019, indicates that 11.1 percent of U.S. households—37.2 million people—were food insecure (at some point during the year, they did not know where their next meals were coming from).

In 2018, food insecurity finally fell to its pre-Great Recession levels, and it is now significantly lower than its recession peak of 14.9 percent in 2011. But at this rate, the United States will not end hunger until 2034.

Every State Has Food Insecurity

Even though some are doing better than others, all are affected by one or more of seven measures of health, income, and opportunity that are highly correlated with food insecurity. The hungriest states include Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. Food insecurity rates vary considerably by state, from 7.8 percent in New Hampshire to 16.8 percent in New Mexico.

11.2 Million Children Live at Risk of Hunger

Food insecurity among households with children declined significantly last year, from 15.7 percent in 2017 to 13.9 percent in 2018. The number of children affected, 11.2 million, is still far too high but it has fallen well below the 12 million children facing hunger in 2007, the last pre-Great Recession year.

Households of color are more likely to experience food insecurity

The new USDA report indicates that African Americans have not made progress on food insecurity for the past two years, and food insecurity has not fallen below pre-Great Recession levels. Food insecurity among African American households is nearly double the national rate and triple the rate of white households. In addition, food insecurity among Latino households is double the rate of white households.

A Plan to End Hunger

The goal of ending hunger by 2030 is one of several adopted by the nations of the world in 2015. To reach it, the United States must reduce food insecurity by almost 1 percentage point every year for the next twelve years. This will require strong political commitment and a comprehensive approach to address hunger’s root causes and accelerate progress.

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