New data shows food insecurity near pre-recession levels
The USDA recently released updated food insecurity data for the United States. This annual report helps us keep track of how many Minnesotans are food insecure, what groups of people are experiencing more food insecurity, and if we’re making any progress in our fight against hunger.
Food Insecurity in the U.S.
The good news from the latest report is that food insecurity is down nationally. In 2017, 11.8% of American households were food insecure (down from 12.3% the year before). This puts us close to where we were before the recession started 10 years ago.
Food insecurity among families with children is also down, but not as quickly. 7.7% of households with children are food insecure (down from 8.0% the year before).
What do we mean by food insecurity?
Being food insecure means not having enough money (or other resources like SNAP) to buy enough food for all members of the household. That means that families worried their food would run out before being able to buy more, or eating less balanced meals, or cutting back on the size of meals or skipping meals because there wasn’t enough money for food.
Food insecurity is the worry and stress of juggling resources to make sure there is enough food to feed your family. It’s a mom just a few bites of dinner to make sure her kids have enough to eat that day. Or it’s a young adult eating nothing but PB&J or rice & beans for a week straight until payday because there isn’t enough money to buy more food.
The research makes a distinction between food insecurity and very low food security. Instead of the worrying about resources (and maybe sometimes not eating a well-balanced diet) like with food insecurity, very low food security is severe and persistent. It’s cutting or skipping meals 3 or more months in a year. It’s being hungry, but not eating because they couldn’t afford food. It’s losing weight because there wasn’t enough money to buy food.
Food Insecurity in Minnesota
Minnesota has long had a lower food insecurity rate than the national average.
- In 2017, 9.5% of Minnesota households were food insecure. That’s down slightly from 9.7% in 2016.
- 7% of Minnesota households had very low food security, up slightly from 3.6% in 2016.
- The 2015-17 average food insecurity rate was 9.5%, down from 10.4% in 2012-14.
Minnesota’s food insecurity rate is the 6th lowest in the country (behind Hawaii, New Jersey, North Dakota, Colorado, and New Hampshire).
It’s important to note that there are still nearly 1 in 10 households in Minnesota that struggle with food insecurity. If all Minnesotans struggling with food insecurity lived in one place, they’d nearly replace the populations of the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul combined!
We’ve made a lot of progress on ending food insecurity in our state, but there remains work to be done. SNAP – the nation’s single most effective anti-hunger program – is currently up for debate as part of the Farm Bill. Proposals to change SNAP threaten to cut millions of Americans out of the program.