A few more U.S. families have consistent access to enough food than a few years ago, but the levels of food security remain high. The USDA’s Economic Research Service last week released its 2013 Household Food Security in the United States report, showing 14.3 percent of U.S households were food-insecure during 2013.
ERS defines food-insecure households as those that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The change from 2012, when the total was 14.5 percent, was not statistically significant; however, the cumulative decline from 2011, when the agency listed 14.9 percent of U.S. households as food-insecure, was statistically significant. In 2013, 5.6 percent of U.S. households, or 6.8 million, had very low food security, essentially unchanged from 5.7 percent in 2011 and 2012. For this rating, ERS says the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
Longer-term ERS data show the prevalence of food insecurity running between 10 and 11 percent from 1995 until 2007, and very-low food insecurity trending below 4 percent during the same period. Between 2007 and 2008, when the United States entered a period of severe recession, the prevalence of food insecurity jumped from 11.1 to 14.6 percent and very-low food insecurity jumped from 4 percent to 5.7 percent. Levels of food insecurity have remained high since 2008, although the trend has shifted somewhat lower since 2011.
According to the report, the percentage of food-insecure households with children, at 9.9 percent, was essentially unchanged from 2011 and 2012 when the figure was 10 percent. That translates to 3.8 million households where parents were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
Looking at the very-low food-security households, ERS found that children experienced disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake in 0.9 percent of households. That number was down from 1.2 percent of households with children in 2012.
Not surprisingly, the prevalence of food insecurity varies considerably between states and regions. Based on three years of data from 2011 through 2013, the prevalence of food insecurity in North Dakota was 8.7 percent, while the prevalence in Arkansas was 21.2 percent. The prevalence rates of very low food security ranged from 3.1 percent in North Dakota to 8.4 percent in Arkansas during the same period.
The full report, a summary and key statistics and graphs are available from USDA/ERS.