ERS report finds food security increasing in United States

ERS report finds food security increasing in United States

12.7% of nation's households were food insecure in 2015, down from 14.9% in 2014.

USDA’s Economic Research Service released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2015 report Sept. 7. The report found that most U.S. households are food secure, meaning they have consistent, dependable access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.

But the report, by Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory and Anita Singh, found that some American households find their access to adequate food limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the report found food insecurity among children has fallen to the lowest figures on record.

Most U.S. households are food secure, meaning they have consistent, dependable access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. (Photo: Choreograph/Thinkstock)

“In 2015, household food insecurity fell 1.3 percentage points from 2014 and 2.2 points from 2011--the peak of the recession,” Vilsack said. “At the same time, very low food security has dropped to 5% from a peak of 5.7%. Today's data mean that 7.9 million fewer people were struggling to provide adequate food for themselves or household members than when President Obama took office in the midst of the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression.”

What are some highlights of the report?

-The estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure in 2015 declined significantly from 2014, to 12.7%, continuing a downward trend in food insecurity from a high of 14.9% in 2011. The 2015 prevalence of food insecurity was still above the 2007 prerecessionary level of 11.1%.

-In 2015, 87.3% of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 12.7% (15.8 million households) were food insecure. The decline from 2014 (14.0%) was statistically significant.

-Children were food insecure at times during the year in 7.8% of U.S. households with children (3.0 million households), down significantly from 9.4% in 2014.

-While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 0.7% of households with children (274,000 households) in 2015. The decline from 2014 (1.1%) was statistically significant.

- The prevalence of food insecurity varied considerably from Sstate to state. Estimated prevalence of food insecurity in 2013-15 ranged from 8.5% in North Dakota to 20.8% in Mississippi.

-About 59% of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal nutrition assistance programs (SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch Program).

ERS report finds food security increasing in United States

How was the report conducted?

Data for the ERS food security reports come from an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the monthly Current Population Survey. ERS sponsors the annual survey and compiles and analyzes the responses. The 2015 food security survey covered 39,948 households comprising a representative sample of the U.S. civilian population of 125 million households. The food security survey asked one adult respondent per household questions about experiences and behaviors that indicate food insecurity, such as being unable to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food. The food security status of the household was assigned based on the number of food-insecure conditions reported.

Going forward

Vilsack said the numbers are good news, but there’s more to do.

“The figures released today . . .  remind us that our work to fight for access to healthy food for our nation's most vulnerable families and individuals is far from over,” he said. “We must work to preserve the critical Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which prevented millions of Americans from falling into poverty or becoming food insecure during the most difficult stretches of the recession. And we must continue to encourage the public and private sectors alike to invest in our rebounding rural communities--the place that produces our food, fiber and fuel.”

Source: USDA, USDA Economic Research Service

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