Food Insecurity in the U.S.


If you are able and willing, there are plenty of ways to help combat malnutrition and food insecurity in the US. You can find a list of USDA approved hunger relief organizations here.

In the wealthiest nation on earth, at least 38.3 million of its citizens struggle against hunger. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as being… 

a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food…

The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the the nation’s struggle with nutritional health. According to the results of research carried out by American University’s Department of Health Studies, food insecurity has been doubled in the US as a result of economic crises brought by pandemic. Meaning that it affected more than 23% of households earlier this year.

However, even before this global pandemic in 2019, 10.5% of the households and 13.7 million households around the US experienced food insecurity. In addition to this, there were around thirty-five million Americans who were unable to obtain enough food to acquire their daily needs.

In 2018 that one out of nine Americans suffered from food insecurity this means that around thirty-seven million Americans suffered from food insecurity out of which eleven million were children. The figure below shows food insecurity rates among different demographic groups in 2019.

A Graph from The Economic Research Service of the USDA

The USDA categorizes food insecurity into two subtlety different categories:

  • Low Food Security: Includes the reduced variety, quality, or desirability of diet. No or little indication of reduced intake of food. In the year 2020, 6.6 percent (8.6 million) of Americans had low food security while in 2019 it was 6.4 percent.
  • Very low food security: Includes multiple indications include reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns. In the year 2020, 3.9 percent (5.1 million) of Americans had very low food security while in 2019 it was 4.1 percent.

Working families in America are facing countless situations that can result in hunger or food insecurity. Many people in America are struggling to obtain access to their basic needs but any unexpected car maintenance, layoffs at work or any accident can eventually force a family to choose between paying for bills or paying for food.

Some main underlying causes that may result in food insecurity in the US may include unemployment/under-employment, poverty, poor nutrition, and inconsistent access to safe and healthy food. In 2016, low-income households were 2.6 times more likely to be food insecure as compared to an average American household.

In addition to this unemployment and under employment (both employed with low wage jobs or unemployed) is also an essential factor for determining food insecurity in any household. Unemployment has soared food insecurity as a result now 54 million Americans are facing hunger.

Climate extremes has also impacted America’s food security by affecting food production, its access, availability, stability, and utilization of food systems. Moreover, 40% of the major greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions around the world are clustered from four countries from which America is one of them. Since 1990, 24% GHGs extreme weather-related disasters are continuously increasing in America which has affected America’s food security and reduced the yields of major crops.

Moreover, the increased level of carbon dioxide production reduces the nutritional value of crops. Also the increased methane production in the agricultural industry has 40 to 80 times as toxic to the environment as carbon dioxide.

All things considered, it’s difficult to look at this public health issue with a lot of optimism.

That said, the fiscal year for the USDA ended on September 30th of this year. So it’s only a matter of time before the department releases new data regarding the state of food security in 2021. As the nation works to recuperate from economic turmoil with renewed infrastructure plans and welfare distribution, we may see some improvement on the horizon.

Leave a Reply