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1 in 6 Americans in need of food in 2010, report finds

POSTED September 20, 2011 9:10 p.m.

The number of households dealing with a shortage of food remained almost unchanged in 2010 according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA report, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2010,” found that one in six Americans, or 49 million people, had trouble putting food on the table at some point in 2010. That number represents 14.5 percent of the population, a percentage statistically unchanged from the number of people food insecure in 2009.

For a second consecutive year the number of food insecure households was at the highest level since the USDA started tracking the data in 1995.

Among the 14.5 percent that were food insecure, 5.4 percent had experienced very low food security, meaning one or more household members had reduced their food intake. The number of very low food security decreased from 5.7 percent in 2009. Typically, households classified as having very low food security experienced the condition in seven months of the year, for a few days in each of those months.

Declines in the prevalence of very low food security were greatest for households with children, women living alone, and households with annual incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line, according to the USDA report.

The report found that while children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 1 percent of households with children, or 386,000 households, in 2010, essentially unchanged from 1.2 percent in 2009.

Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, households with children headed by a single parent, and African-American and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and other outlying areas around large cities.

The typical food-secure household spent 27 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Fifty-nine percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month they had participated in one or more of the three largest federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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