USDA Report Reveals Millions are Food Insecure

Sep 10, 2012

By Helly Lee

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report on food security status of American households. The research revealed that in 2011, 50.1 million people (14.9 percent) lived in food insecure households where they faced an uncertainty of having, or being able to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of their family members because of a lack of resources. Furthermore, 6.8 million households (5.7 percent) had very low food security, meaning that normal eating patterns of one or more household members were affected and food intake was reduced at times during the year because of insufficient resources.  This figure represented a significant increase from the 5.4 percent of US households that were food insecure in 2010

As troublesome as these figures are, they could have been much worse without the assistance provided by nutrition programs, particularly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest program to combat hunger. The latest SNAP data reveal that 46.6 million Americans participated in SNAP in June 2012. This record high is driven both by lingering unemployment and underemployment, and by states’ improved performance in reaching needy individuals.  SNAP benefits are not always enough to protect families from food insecurity benefits often run out well before the end of the month but they still are a vital part of the safety net.

As the economy slowly recovers, millions of families across the country continue to face economic hardships that affect their everyday lives. Programs like SNAP have been critical in helping to alleviate poverty in these dire times of need, yet there continue to be a threat of deep cuts to the program. Moreover, Unemployment Insurance benefits, which have been critical to helping those who have lost jobs in the recession while they continue to look for work, are running out for more than 2 million long-term unemployed workers this year.

We can’t ignore the fact that millions of people are struggling across the country and as we work toward a stronger recovery, it is vital to maintain strong safety net programs to help families stay afloat, ensuring that families are not faced with food insecurity. Congress must act now to pass a Farm bill that protects SNAP from cuts.

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