WASHINGTON - One in seven, or 14.7 percent, of American households suffered from food insecurity in 2009, according to the most recent data on hunger released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the numbers remain unchanged since 2008, they are still the highest recorded levels since the USDA first began publishing figures on food insecurity.
“These numbers are still far too high. There are 12.9 million households in all of California, and the number of U.S. households who struggle to put food on the table is higher still than that. We must do more and we must do it better,” said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. “With record-breaking unemployment rates and the impact of the recession, Congress needs to ensure that programs designed to mitigate hunger — like SNAP, the national school meal programs, and WIC — are well-funded.”
The most recent data was released as Congress reconvenes for its lame duck session. Several important items on the congressional agenda remain unfinished. They include extending tax benefits for low-income working families and reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, which will improve the school breakfast and lunch programs along with WIC and summer food sites.
Currently about 42 million people—more than one in eight Americans—participate each month in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). This figure is projected to rise to 43.3 million in 2011.
“Had it not been for social safety nets such as SNAP, unemployment insurance, and federal feeding programs—along with increased funding in the Recovery Act—the figures would have been much worse,” Beckmann added. “These programs served as a lifeline for many American families in 2009 and should be funded at levels to support this time of need.”
According to the USDA figures, nearly 27 percent of Hispanics and nearly 25 percent of African-Americans suffer from food insecurity, compared to 11 percent of white non-Hispanic households. Nearly one in four — or 17 million — children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.