Food Insecurity in the Spotlight

By Randi Hall and Nune Phillips

Far too many households in the United States have limited access to adequate food due to lack of money and other resources. This is known as food insecurity. According to this year’s Household Food Security in the United States report published recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 48.1 million people in the United States (15.4 percent) lived in food-insecure households in 2014, an insignificant decline from 15.8 percent in 2013. Just as families with children are most likely to be poor in the U.S., households with children are also more likely to have food insecurity than those without (19.2 percent vs. 14 percent). Food-insecure households are also more likely to be headed by a single mother and to live below 130 percent of the poverty threshold. Moreover, 6.9 million households experience “very low food security”—they worry about running out of groceries before being able to buy more, or cut or skip meals and purposely go hungry. 

Food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are vital to reducing persistent hunger among low-income households. In recognition of the increase in food insecurity brought on by the Great Recession, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased the monthly SNAP benefit through November 1, 2013. However, since this higher benefit ended, families with young children are 17 percent more likely to experience food insecurity for both the household and the children. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure (an experimental poverty measure that counts non-cash benefits to determine alternative poverty thresholds), SNAP alone kept 4.7 million people above the poverty line in 2014.

Millions of SNAP recipients will miss meals if their food assistance benefits are delayed, decreased, or otherwise negatively impacted. Over the next ten weeks as the FY 2016 federal budget operates under the temporary Continuing Resolution (CR), Congress will be deliberating a more permanent budget and must ensure SNAP is secure. Adequate and accessible nutrition is vital to human development, and children and families should not have to bear the consequences of Congressional inaction.