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Food insecurity in U.S. households falls again in 2018

Food insecurity increased substantially in 2008 during Great Recession but has declined since 2011 peak.

Food insecurity in the U.S. continues to fall, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing that food insecurity returned to the pre-recession level of 11.1%. Last observed in 2007, this level is down from 11.8% in 2017 and the high of 14.9% in 2011, USDA said.

USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released its "Household Food Security in the United States in 2018" report on the incidence and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households. In 2018, 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members at some time during the year because of a lack of financial or other resources, USDA reported.

Using data from December 2018, the report showed that 88.9% of American households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning that all household members had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

USDA ERSfood insecurity 2018.jpg

USDA said food insecurity increased substantially in 2008 with the onset of the Great Recession but has been declining since 2011, when food insecurity peaked.

“Returning to the 2007 prevalence has been a point of interest for many that follow trends in food insecurity. Compared with other measures of hardship, like unemployment and poverty, food insecurity took longer to return to pre-recession levels,” the report explained.

According to USDA, very low food security is the severe range of food insecurity characterized by reductions in food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to limited resources. In 2018, 4.3% of American households experienced very low food security. This was not significantly different from 4.5% in 2017. Before the Great Recession, very low food security was 4.1% in 2007 but then increased to 5.7% in 2008. In 2018, very low food security had nearly reached the pre-recession level, USDA noted.

Despite recent improvements in the national food insecurity prevalence, the report suggested that some groups continue to face higher-than-average food insecurity rates. In 2018, 35.3% of households with incomes below the federal poverty level were food insecure. Among single mother households with children, 27.8% were food insecure in 2018, and among single father households with children, 15.9% were food insecure. Further, USDA reported that food insecurity affected 21.2% of Black, non-Hispanic households and 16.2% of Hispanic households.

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