The United States of America is one of the richest nations in the world, yet every day, 44 million people, including more than 13 million children (1 in 5), don’t have enough to eat.
Throughout the country, families and children who are experiencing poverty face economic challenges that make it difficult to get healthy, nutritious food. In an ideal world, all children and young people would be fed and have access to decent food. However, it’s not that simple. Here are some hard facts that tell the story.
- Millions of Americans are just one job loss, missed paycheck, or medical emergency away from hunger. Approximately 17 million U.S. households — almost 13 percent — were food insecure at some time during 2022.
- Children who struggle with poor nutrition are more likely to have problems in school. In one study, 76 percent of teachers observed decreased academic performance in children experiencing hunger, and 62 percent saw increased behavioral issues.
- Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or WIC (Women, Infants, Children). These households earn enough to put them over the U.S. Census department’s “poverty line.” Last year, that was about $21,960 a year for a three-person household — which is not nearly enough to cover monthly expenses, including housing, childcare, commuting and of course food. These families rely heavily on food banks.
- Approximately 18.8 million people — about 6.1 percent of all US households — live in "food deserts," meaning there’s no supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store near their home. This makes getting affordable fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and other foods required for a healthy diet nearly impossible.
- Food insecurity does not impact Americans equally. Nearly 20 percent of African Americans experience hunger due in part to discriminatory hiring policies and practices that lead to higher unemployment rates. One in six Hispanics faces hunger due in part to language, education, and cultural barriers. And there’s a long history of federal policies that have impacted Native Americans, leading to high rates of poverty and food insecurity in their communities. And in all of these groups, families headed by single moms have the highest rates of hunger and food insecurity.
- About 46 percent of US public school students are eligible for a federally subsidized lunch. Many of these children rely on the school cafeteria for their most nutritious meals, thanks to the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program.
- About 39 percent of US college students who are low-income struggle to afford adequate food and housing. Living on a limited budget, many of these college students have to choose between paying tuition or buying groceries.
- Approximately 5.5 million people aged 60+ went hungry last year. That's 1 in 14 seniors or 7.1 percent of all seniors. Lower incomes, inability to care for themselves, and decreased mobility create circumstances where many cannot afford balanced meals, skip meals, or simply eat less because they don’t have enough money for food.
The prevalence of hunger in America, known throughout the world as a land of plenty, is unacceptable. The government, businesses, and non-profits all have a role in ending hunger, and individuals can get involved, too — whether you donate, volunteer, or advocate for change. Comic Relief US is addressing food insecurity in America, partnering with organizations working in all 50 states, including Feeding America, Grow Dat Youth Farm, Latino Memphis, The Concilio and the Tejano Center for Community Concerns.
This post was originally published on September 5, 2023.