There were 13.8 million U.S. households that experienced food insecurity in 2020, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) report published Sept. 8.
This total represents 10.5% of all U.S. households, a percentage that remains unchanged from 2019. Of this total, 6.6% have low food security (8.7 million), while 3.9% (5.1 million households) experience very low food security – down slightly from 4.1% in 2019.
“Food-insecure households (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources,” the report explained.
For households experiencing very low food security, “the food intake of some household members was reduced, and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because of limited resources.”
Food insecurity in the U.S. was relatively stable from 1998 to 2007, fluctuating between 11.9% and 10.1%. The Great Recession brought a significant increase in food insecure households, jumping to 14.6% in 2008 and increasing to a height of 14.9% by 2011, before steadily declining to 10.5% in 2019 and 2020.
There was a 1.2% increase to 14.8% of households with children that experienced food insecurity last year.
For around half of these households (7.2%), only the adults dealt with food insecurity, while 7.6% of these households had both adults and children who did not receive enough nutritious food at some point (up from 6.5% in 2019).
In addition, 0.8% of children experienced very low food security (up from 0.6%), meaning they “were hungry, skipped a meal or did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.”
From 1998 to 2007, an average of 8.8% of U.S. households had food-insecure children in them. The average increased to 10.3% from 2008 to 2012, before declining to an average of 8% from 2013 to 2020. Despite the overall downward trend, 2020 is the first time since 2016 that the number of households with food-insecure children increased.
“About one-fourth of U.S. households with very low food security at any time during the year experienced the associated conditions rarely or occasionally — in only 1 or 2 months of the year. About three-fourths of respondent households experienced the conditions recurrently, in 3 or more months of the year,” the USDA noted.
“About one-fourth of food-insecure households and one-third of those with very low food security experienced the associated conditions frequently or chronically. That is, the conditions occurred often, or almost every month,” the report said. “On average, households that were food insecure at some time during the year were food insecure in 7 months during the year.”