End Hunger

Hunger in the U.S.


Hunger exists in the U.S. just as it does overseas. For developed countries like the U.S., hunger doesn’t come from not having enough food available. There is enough food for everyone. The overwhelming cause of hunger in developed countries is poverty.

3 min read

Why Are U.S. Families Hungry?

Low-income households already spend a greater share of their income on food. Food accounts for 16.4 percent of spending for households making less than $10,000 per year compared to the U.S. average of 12.7 percent. A person working full-time at the minimum wage earns about $14,500 a year.

Nearly 15 percent of U.S. households — more than 40 million Americans, including 12 million children — struggle to put food on the table. Here the measure of hunger is “food insecurity” — an ongoing uncertainty of where the next meal will come from. More than 1 in 5 U.S. children are at risk of hunger (1 in 3 among Black and Latino(a) children). To the surprise of many, most Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65.  

What Is Hidden Hunger?

In the U.S., those facing poverty often experience “hidden hunger,” meaning even if they are getting enough quantity of food, the quality of food – vitamins and minerals – is lacking. Hidden hunger can stunt physical growth and cause poor cognitive function, weakened immune systems, and chronic diseases at later age.

What Are Food Deserts?

In rural areas, farm consolidation and the impact of globalization on manufacturing are creating rural enclaves of hunger and poverty. Many of these areas are “food deserts” — areas without access to grocery stores or any affordable healthy food. People in urban areas can also suffer from lack of access to nutritious food. Cities often have high costs for transportation and rent, which can squeeze low-income families and put them at risk of hunger.

Additionally, many seniors especially struggle from food insecurity in the U.S., with 5 million seniors living below the poverty line. 

What’s the Best Way to Solve Hunger in the U.S.?

Churches and charities do a lot to address the immediate needs from hunger in direct ways. But the federal government also has many safety-net programs to address food insecurity, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch Program. These government programs provide many times more hunger-related assistance than private charities. Funding for these critical anti-hunger programs is being challenged, which is where Bread steps in. 

1 in 6 Kids

1 in 6 kids are at risk of hunger in the U.S.

27.3% / 21.8%

Food insecurity among Black and Latino(a) households with children is 27.3 percent and 21.8 percent, respectively. [USDA]

$160 Billion

In our 2016 Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute reported food insecurity and hunger cost the U.S. about $160 billion per year in lost productivity and increased health care costs. [estimate