“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” ~James Baldwin
Hunger in the United States
Six years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a significant increase in hunger in the United States. This high level of hunger diminished somewhat in 2013, according to the latest government report (with the most recent statistics) released in September 2015 (Coleman-Jensen 2015a).
- In 2013, 14.3 percent of households (17.5 million households, approximately one in seven), were food insecure (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p. 1). This is down slightly from 14.9 percent food insecure in 2008 and 2009 which was the highest number recorded since these statistics have been kept (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p.1 ).
- In 2013, 5.6 percent of U.S. households (6.8 million households) had very low food security. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p.1) .
- Children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.9 percent of households with children. These 3.8 million households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children While children are usually shielded by their parents, who go hungry themselves, from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 0.9 percent of households with children (360,000 households) in 2013 (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p. 2).
- The median [a type of average] food-secure household spent 30 percent more on food than the median food-insecure household of the same size and household composition including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p. 2).
- Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, and Black and Hispanic households (Coleman-Jensen 2014b, p. 2).
- Background: The United States changed the name of its definitions in 2006 that eliminated references to hunger, keeping various categories of food insecurity. This did not represent a change in what was measured. Very low food insecurity (described as food insecurity with hunger prior to 2006) means that, at times during the year, the food intake of household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food. This means that people were hungry (in the sense of “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food” [Oxford English Dictionary 1971] for days each year.
Poverty in the United States
The official poverty measure is published by the United States Census Bureau and shows that:
- In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty. This is up from 37.3 million in 2007. The number of poor people is near the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty statistics have been published (DeNavas-Walt 2014, p. 12—also see table there).
- The 2013 poverty rate was 14.5 percent, down only slightly from the 2010 poverty rate of 15.1 percent and still up from 12.5 percent in 1997, although the recession has ended officially (DeNavas-Walt 2014, p. 12). (The poverty rate was at 22.4 percent in 1959, the first year for poverty estimates.)
- The 2013 poverty rate for Blacks was 27.2 percent, for Hispanics 23.5 percent, for Asians 10.5 percent and for non-Hispanic whites 9.6 percent (DeNavas-Walt 2014, p. 12-3).
- The poverty rate for children under 18 fell from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013. The number of children in poverty fell from 16.1 million to 14.7 million. Children represented 23.5 percent of the total population and 32.3 percent of people in poverty (DeNavas-Walt 2014, p. 15).
- 19.9 million Americans live in extreme poverty. This means their family’s cash income is less than half of the poverty line, or about $10,000 a year for a family of four. They represented 6.3 percent of all people and 43.8 percent of those in poverty (DeNavas-Walt 2014, p. 16).
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