In 2018, 37.2 million people (approximately 11% of the U.S. population) lived in food-insecure households. This means they were often forced to skip meals, eat less at meals, buy cheap non-nutritious food and/or feed their children but not themselves (United States Department of Agriculture, Household Food Security in the United States in 2017).
What are the main causes of hunger in America?
No matter where it exists in the world, hunger is a dynamic issue of a cyclical nature.
If a child grows up in a food-insecure household, they’re much more likely to remain food-insecure into adulthood, taking with them the associated burdens of hunger such as malnutrition. Malnutrition can have significant effects on a person’s physical and mental health, making it difficult to earn an education and maintain gainful employment, only exacerbating the existing problem. While there are many different causes of food insecurity and hunger in the United States, there are a few that stand out as the most common.
The average annual unemployment rate among high food insecurity counties in the United States was over 7%, compared to 5% across all counties (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap 2019).
Unsurprisingly, the poverty rate was much higher in the above-mentioned counties well, with an average poverty rate of 27% compared to 16% in the other counties (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap 2019).
As you might expect, the average median household income in these affected counties was much lower than the national average, with high unemployment and high food-insecure countries earning an average of $35,067 annually, compared to the national average median annual household income of $49,754 (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap 2019).
The average homeownership rate for high food-insecure counties was 65% in 2018, compared to the national average of 71% (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap 2019).
How does hunger affect America?
Hunger is an unhealthy and high-stress environment for individuals and families who are affected by it. We already know that hunger and malnourishment can cause physical damage to the human body in the form of high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased risk of developing life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. But hunger takes a toll on mental health as well.
According to an article published by The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002, mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56.2% more likely to have PTSD and 53.1% more likely to have severe depression.
So not only is the mental health of the hungry at stake, but also the mental health of loved ones responsible for feeding them.
It’s not hard to imagine hunger’s negative effect on a child’s ability to learn. Imagine taking your exams without having had anything substantial to eat since the day before, trying to mask the sounds of your growling stomach in the classroom. Concentration aside, an empty stomach can cause children to be irritable, hyperactive, and aggressive. These effects not only distract students from their work, but they can also have lifelong consequences in the form of learning disabilities and behavioral issues. It’s estimated that in the U.S., approximately 50% of students affected by hunger will need to repeat a grade at least once.
Do people die of hunger in the US?
This is a difficult number to track, as hunger is the root cause of so many health problems in the United States and all over the world.
While food-insecure individuals and families in the United States may not be starving to death in the conventional sense, their diets lack essential nutrients and instead consist of mass-produced high-calorie foods that are widely available at prices they can afford. The prolonged consumption of these foods has been linked to significant health problems and life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
What state has the most hunger?
The lowest median household income in the United States can be found in McCreary County, Kentucky, where people earn less than half of the average of all U.S. counties (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap 2019).
The per capita income for McCreary County was $12,903 in 2018. Approximately 41% of the population live below the poverty line, a number that is much, much higher than the national average of 13.1%.
Despite these statistics, according to this Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) data table, the highest rate of household food insecurity between 2016 and 2018 was discovered in the state of New Mexico, where a staggering 16.8% of households were designated as food-insecure.
It should be noted, however, that this percentage of the population only accounts for 836,000 people. The state with the highest number of food-insecure households was California, with an astonishing 14,011,000 households designated food-insecure (10.6% of the state’s population).
How many people are poor in the US?
In 2018, 38.1 million people were living in poverty in the United States, meaning the country’s national poverty rate for 2018 was 11.8%, according to NPR.
Poverty is defined by the U.S. government as a family of four whose household income is less than $25,700. Poverty has many faces in America, from people working multiple minimum wage jobs to seniors living on fixed incomes, from laid-off wage workers suddenly out of work to individuals struggling with health problems or substance abuse.
While poverty affects everyone, it does not affect all populations equally. Unfortunately, the highest poverty rate by race is found among the country’s indigenous population, the Native Americans, where a staggering 25.4% of people are living in poverty. Black Americans make up the second-highest group at 20.8%.
How can we stop hunger in America?
Research the programs and organizations that are working to end the problem of hunger in the United States and find out how you can help.
Of the households surveyed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 56% reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs. One of these programs is known as SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Program (United States Department of Agriculture, Food Security Status of US Households in 2018).
Thanks to federal programs like SNAP as well as local and private international support organizations like Food for Life Global, every day, thousands of Americans can begin to work their way out of poverty and hunger. Food for life helps the United States strengthen families, create jobs, and improve neighborhoods by helping its citizens with their number one need: food.
Make a donation today
Food for Life Global (FFLG) was founded in 1995 and currently has an office based in Delaware, USA, which serves as the headquarters for Food for Life projects worldwide. With volunteers serving up to 2,000,000 free plant-based meals daily to schools, as well as from mobile vans and to disaster areas, FFLG is the largest food relief organization in the world, surpassing even the United Nations World Food Programme.
If you would like to be a part of the solution and help feed hungry Americans as well as the millions of others in need around the world, make a donation to Food for Life Global.