Food insecurity, as measured by the food security survey and reflected in USDA food security reports, is a household-level economic and social state characterized by restricted or unpredictable access to appropriate food.

Food insecurity is a condition that affects both individuals and households. Hunger is a physiological state that may occur at the individual level as a consequence of food poverty.

What is Food Insecurity in America?

Food insecurity was expected to affect one in every eight Americans in 2020, equal to approximately 38 million people, including around 12 million children.

Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a lack of continuous access to adequate food for an active, healthy life.

It’s vital to understand that, although hunger and food insecurity are closely connected, they’re not the same thing. Food insecurity refers to a lack of adequate financial means for food at the family level, while hunger refers to a personal, bodily experience of pain.

Food insecurity is a complicated issue, according to extensive study. Many individuals lack the financial means to satisfy their basic demands, putting their families at danger of food insecurity.

Despite the fact that food insecurity is directly linked to poverty, not everyone who lives below the poverty line suffers from it, and individuals who live above the poverty line might also suffer from it.

Food insecurity does not occur in a vacuum, since low-income families face a slew of obstacles, including a lack of affordable housing, social isolation, economic/social disadvantage as a consequence of systemic racism, chronic or acute health conditions, high medical expenditures, and poor salaries.

These factors, when considered collectively, are key social determinants of health, which are described as conditions in the surroundings in which individuals are born, live, study, work, play, worship, and age that impact a broad variety of health, functional, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.

Food insecurity interventions that are effective must take into account the overlapping issues provided by socioeconomic determinants of health. Food insecurity as a social determinant of health and its influence on individual and population health outcomes are explored in Hunger + Health.

Who is Affected by Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity has many faces since it affects every neighborhood in the United States. See Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap research for additional information on child and general food insecurity in your state, including congressional districts and county-level statistics.

Group of Senior Citizens

#1 Seniors

  1. In 2019, 5.2 million older citizens aged 60 and above were hungry. This equates to one in every fourteen seniors, or 7.1 percent of all seniors.
  2. Sixty-three percent of seniors who visit food banks say they have to pick between food and medical attention.
  3. Seniors’ health and nutrition suffer as a result of hunger, placing them at risk for chronic illnesses such as depression, asthma, and diabetes.
  4. SNAP benefits are available to millions of seniors, yet just 42% of those who qualify get them.
  5. Seniors who identify as Black or Latino, seniors who reside in rural regions, seniors with impairments, and seniors who are renters are all more likely to encounter hunger.


Group of Kids Outdoors

#2 Children

  1. During the pandemic, the number of children in the United States who were hungry increased from more than 10 million in 2019 to over 12 million in 2020.
  2. Households with children are more likely to be hungry, particularly single-parent families.
  3. Because of systematic racial inequality, black and Latino children are more than twice as likely as white children to be hungry. To reduce child hunger, we must address the disparities that make it harder for families of color to feed their children.


Farmer in Field

#3 Rural Communities

  1. Hunger affects 2.1 million families in rural areas.
  2. 63 percent of counties in the United States are rural, while 91 percent of counties with the highest rates of total food insecurity are rural.
  3. Hunger among children is more widespread in rural areas. Rural counties account for 86 percent of the counties with the greatest number of children at risk of food insecurity.
  4. Poverty is worse in rural areas than it is in metropolitan areas. In 2019, 13.3% of all persons in rural regions were poor, compared to 10.0 percent in metropolitan areas.
  5. Long-term disparities make people of color in rural regions more vulnerable to hunger. For example, compared to white, non-Hispanic adults living in rural areas, Black people in rural counties were 2.5 times more likely to be hungry. In rural regions, Native Americans have some of the highest rates of food insecurity of any racial or ethnic group.
  6. Many individuals living in rural regions are suffering more as a result of the pandemic’s economic effect.


African American Family

#4 African Americans

  1. Discriminatory laws and practices have resulted in Black people being more likely than white people to live in poverty, be unemployed, and have less financial resources such as savings or property. All of these things boost a person’s chances of being hungry.
  2. Food insecurity in the Black community worsened as a result of the epidemic. In 2020, it is anticipated that 24% of the Black population would be food insecure. Food insecurity affects almost three times as many black children as it does white children.
  3. Black individuals, particularly Black women, are more likely to be vital frontline workers and to work in the pandemic’s hardest-hit sectors.
  4. Black households have a median annual income of $46,000, whereas non-Hispanic white families have a median annual income of $71,000.
  5. While the general poverty rate in the United States is 11.4 percent, the poverty rate in the Black community is 19.5 percent. Meanwhile, 10.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites live in poverty.


Latino Family

#5 Latinos

  1. Inequalities created by racial discrimination, language, education, and cultural obstacles make Latino populations more vulnerable to food poverty.
  2. Food insecurity among Latinos increased from about 16 percent in 2019 to more than 19 percent in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.
  3. Food insecurity was found to be 2.5 times as common among Latinos than among whites. Latino children were more than twice as likely as white children to live in food-insecure families.
  4. Latinos, particularly Latinas, are more likely to work in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which have been severely impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. These workers continue to have the greatest percentage of unemployment.
  5. According to the Census, one out of every six Latinos lives in poverty, compared to one out of every sixteen white persons.


Food Security Scales

Ranges of Food Security

While families are often classified as either food secure or food insecure, there are four degrees of food security that characterize the variety of experiences that households have in getting adequate food. The food secure group includes families with high or marginal food security, whereas the food insecure category includes those with low or extremely poor food security.