Government Agency Navigation

Food Security

Narrative

Food security is defined as having access at all times to enough nutritionally adequate and safe foods to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.1 Food security status is assessed through a series of survey questions such as whether people worried that food would run out before there would be money to buy more; whether an individual or his/her family cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food; and whether an individual or his/her family had ever gone a whole day without eating because there was not enough food.

In 2009, an estimated 50.2 million people, or 16.6 percent of the overall population, lived in households that were classified as food-insecure, reaching the highest levels since food security was first measured in 1995.2 Households or persons experiencing food insecurity may be categorized as experiencing “low food security” or “very low food security.” Low food security generally indicates multiple food access issues, while very low food security indicates reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to inadequate resources for food. Periods of low or very low food security are usually recurrent and episodic, rather than chronic. Nonetheless, nutritional risk due to poor dietary quality can persist across periods of food insecurity and may increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies and diet-sensitive conditions like hypertension and diabetes.3

Overall, 15.0 percent of women experienced household food insecurity in 2009; this varied, however, by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic White women were least likely to be food insecure (8.4 and 11.1 percent, respectively), compared to about one-quarter of women of other racial and ethnic groups. About 9–10 percent of Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic women of multiple races experienced very low food security.

Food security status also varies by household composition. While adult men and women living alone had similar rates of food insecurity in 2009, female-headed households (with at least one child under 18 years of age) with no spouse present were more likely than male-headed households with no spouse present to experience food insecurity (36.6 versus 27.8 percent, respectively). Female-headed households were also more likely than male-headed households to experience very low food security (12.9 versus 8.3 percent, respectively).

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Security in the United States: Measuring Household Food Security. November 2008. Accessed 03/17/11.
2 Nord M, Coleman-Jensen A, Andrews M, Carlson S. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009. ERR-1018, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. November 2010. Accessed 03/17/11.
3 Seligman HK, Laraia BA, Kushel MB. Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants. Journal of Nutrition. February 2010;140(2):304-10.

Graphs

Data

Women Aged 18 and Older Experiencing Household Food Insecurity, by Race/Ethnicity, 2009
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Women
Very Low Food Security Low Food Security Food Insecure*
*Food insecure includes very low and low food security. Percentages may not add to totals due to rounding.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Food Security Supplement. December 2009. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.
Non-Hispanic White 4.4 6.7 11.1
Non-Hispanic Black 9.2 16.3 25.5
Hispanic 8.9 17.8 26.7
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native 9.7 17.1 26.8
Non-Hispanic Asian 2.6 5.9 8.4
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander 6.5 16.5 22.9
Non-Hispanic Multiple Race 9.5 12.8 22.3
Total 5.6 9.4 15.0
Food Security Status Among Households, by Household Composition, 2009
Household Composition Percent of Households
Very Low Food Security Low Food Security Food Insecure*
*Food insecure includes very low and low food security. Percentages may not add to totals due to rounding.
**Includes households with at least one child under 18 years of age.
Source: Nord M, Coleman-Jensen A, Andrews M, Carlson S. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009. ERR-1018, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. November 2010. Accessed 03/17/11.
Women Living Alone 7.4 7.3 14.7
Men Living Alone 7.1 7.4 14.5
Female-Headed Household, No Spouse** 12.9 23.7 36.6
Male-Headed Household, No Spouse** 8.3 19.5 27.8
Married Couple Families** 4.0 10.7 14.7

Share this!

Downloads