‘Food insecurity’ strikes 17.6 million US households


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some 17.6 million U.S. households had trouble feeding their family members at times last year as “food insecurity” remained at near-record levels for the fifth straight year, according to a government report released Wednesday.

More than one-third of those households — 7 million — suffered from “very low food security,” in which usual eating patterns were disrupted and consumption was reduced because of a lack of money and access to food.

In all, 49 million Americans didn’t know where their next meals would come from at some point in 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

While the numbers show a slight improvement over 2011, the differences weren’t statistically significant, the report found. The level of food hardship in the U.S. remained high last year in the aftermath of the recession, in which more than 8 million Americans lost their jobs.

“The fact that 49 million people in this country continue to struggle to put food on the table is unconscionable,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, the president of Bread for the World, a Washington-based anti-hunger organization.

Access to food was most problematic among the poor, female-headed families, families with children, and blacks and Hispanics, according to the annual USDA report, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012.”

Food insecurity affected 1 in 5 U.S. households with children, more than one-third of households with children headed by single women and nearly a quarter of households with children headed by single men, the report found.

Nearly 1 million children — about 1.3 percent of the nation’s youngsters — lived in households with very low food security.

The report showed that 42 percent of food-insecure households — about 7.4 million — received assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

Although the economy is improving, enrollment in the SNAP program continues to hover at the near-record levels reached during the recent recession. As of May, 47.6 million people in 23 million households were receiving food stamps. That’s roughly 1 in 7 Americans.

Congressional Republicans are pushing to cut the SNAP program by $40 billion as part of a new farm bill. They say that SNAP, the nation’s largest anti-hunger program, is too expensive, at roughly $78 billion a year. Republicans also want to require food stamp applicants to undergo drug tests.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday’s report underscored the importance of the SNAP program in keeping food hardship from rising.

“As the recovery continues and families turn to USDA nutrition programs for help to put good food on the table, this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program that would disqualify millions of Americans and threaten a rise in food insecurity,” Vilsack said in a statement.

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Food insecurity by state

Prevalence of food insecurity, average 2010-12, by state:

AK is 12.1. Value is in the range, Label: AK, Alaska 12.1 Margin of error + or - 2.13.

AL is 17.9. Value is in the range, Label: AL, Alabama 17.9 Margin of error + or - 2.62.

AR is 19.7. Value is in the range, Label: AR, Arkansas 19.7 Margin of error + or - 2.45.

AZ is 14.9. Value is in the range, Label: AZ, Arizona 14.9 Margin of error + or - 2.36.

CA is 15.6. Value is in the range, Label: CA, California 15.6 Margin of error + or - 0.74.

CO is 14.1. Value is in the range, Label: CO, Colorado 14.1 Margin of error + or -1.41.

CT is 13.4. Value is in the range, Label: CT, Connecticut 13.4 Margin of error + or - 1.37.

DC is 12. Value is in the range, Label: DC, District of Columbia 12 Margin of error + or -1.63.

DE is 11.6. Value is in the range, Label: DE, Delaware 11.6 Margin of error + or - 1.57.

FL is 14.8. Value is in the range, Label: FL, Florida 14.8 Margin of error + or - 1.07.

GA is 16.9. Value is in the range, Label: GA, Georgia 16.9 Margin of error + or - 1.45.

HI is 14. Value is in the range, Label: HI, Hawaii 14 Margin of error + or - 1.85.

IA is 12.6. Value is in the range, Label: IA, Iowa 12.6 Margin of error + or - 1.58.

ID is 14.3. Value is in the range, Label: ID, Idaho 14.3 Margin of error + or - 1.72.

IL is 13. Value is in the range, Label: IL, Illinois 13 Margin of error + or - 0.94.

IN is 13.5. Value is in the range, Label: IN, Indiana 13.5 Margin of error + or - 2.10.

KS is 14.4. Value is in the range, Label: KS, Kansas 14.4 Margin of error + or - 1.54.

KY is 15.6. Value is in the range, Label: KY, Kentucky 15.6 Margin of error + or - 2.28.

LA is 15.7. Value is in the range, Label: LA, Louisiana 15.7 Margin of error + or - 2.20.

MA is 11.4. Value is in the range, Label: MA, Massachusetts 11.4 Margin of error + or - 1.66.

MD is 13. Value is in the range, Label: MD, Maryland 13 Margin of error + or - 1.26.

ME is 14.9. Value is in the range, Label: ME, Maine 14.9 Margin of error + or - 1.53.

MI is 13.4. Value is in the range, Label: MI, Michigan 13.4 Margin of error + or - 1.31.

MN is 10.6. Value is in the range, Label: MN, Minnesota 10.6 Margin of error + or - 1.20.

MO is 16.7. Value is in the range, Label: MO, Missouri 16.7 Margin of error + or - 1.61.

MS is 20.9. Value is in the range, Label: MS, Mississippi 20.9 Margin of error + or - 2.30.

MT is 14.1. Value is in the range, Label: MT, Montana 14.1 Margin of error + or - 2.16.

NC is 17. Value is in the range, Label: NC, North Carolina 17 Margin of error + or - 1.73.

ND is 8.7. Value is in the range, Label: ND, North Dakota 8.7 Margin of error + or - 1.92.

NE is 13.4. Value is in the range, Label: NE, Nebraska 13.4 Margin of error + or - 1.84.

NH is 9.9. Value is in the range, Label: NH, New Hampshire 9.9 Margin of error + or - 1.24.

NJ is 12.1. Value is in the range, Label: NJ, New Jersey 12.1 Margin of error + or - 1.31.

NM is 15.2. Value is in the range, Label: NM, New Mexico 15.2 Margin of error + or - 2.20.

NV is 16.6. Value is in the range, Label: NV, Nevada 16.6 Margin of error + or - 1.69.

NY is 13.2. Value is in the range, Label: NY, New York 13.2 Margin of error + or - 0.94.

OH is 16.1. Value is in the range, Label: OH, Ohio 16.1 Margin of error + or - 1.19.

OK is 15.3. Value is in the range, Label: OK, Oklahoma 15.3 Margin of error + or - 1.99.

OR is 13.6. Value is in the range, Label: OR, Oregon 13.6 Margin of error + or - 1.29.

PA is 12.3. Value is in the range, Label: PA, Pennsylvania 12.3 Margin of error + or - 1.05.

RI is 15.4. Value is in the range, Label: RI, Rhode Island 15.4 Margin of error + or - 1.52.

SC is 15.4. Value is in the range, Label: SC, South Carolina 15.4 Margin of error + or - 1.52.

SD is 12.9. Value is in the range, Label: SD, South Dakota 12.9 Margin of error + or - 1.59.

TN is 16.2. Value is in the range, Label: TN, Tennessee 16.2 Margin of error + or - 1.84.

TX is 18.4. Value is in the range, Label: TX, Texas 18.4 Margin of error + or - 1.28.

UT is 14.8. Value is in the range, Label: UT, Utah 14.8 Margin of error + or - 1.85.

VA is 9.2. Value is in the range, Label: VA, Virginia 9.2 Margin of error + or - 1.59.

VT is 12.7. Value is in the range, Label: VT, Vermont 12.7 Margin of error + or - 1.48.

WA is 14.6. Value is in the range, Label: WA, Washington 14.6 Margin of error + or - 1.55.

WI is 11.2. Value is in the range, Label: WI, Wisconsin 11.2 Margin of error + or - 1.45.

WV is 14.2. Value is in the range, Label: WV, West Virginia 14.2 Margin of error + or - 1.66.

WY is 13.8. Value is in the range, Label: WY, Wyoming 13.8 Margin of error + or - 2.02.

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(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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GRAPHIC (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064):