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 based on individuals' responses to questions such as whether an individual 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.

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.2

In 2010, an estimated 17.2 million or 14.5 percent of all households experienced food insecurity among one or more household members at some point in the past year; this rate has not changed significantly since 2008 and remains at the highest level documented since measurement began in 1998.3 However, the prevalence of very low food security declined slightly from 5.7 percent in 2009 to 5.4 percent in 2010.

Food security status varies by household composition. While adult men and women living alone had similar rates of food insecurity in 2010, female-headed families with no spouse present were more likely than male-headed families with no spouse present to experience food insecurity (35.1 versus 25.4 percent, respectively). Female-headed families were also more likely than male-headed families to experience very low food security (10.8 versus 6.7 percent, respectively).

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Security in the United States: Measuring Household Food Security, Nov 2008. Accessed 4/14/12.

2 Seligman HK, Laraia BA, Kushel MB. Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants. Journal of Nutrition. 2010 Feb;140(2):304-10.

3 Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States in 2010. ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011. Accessed 4/14/12.

Graphs

Data

Household Food Insecurity, 1998-2010
Year 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. Source: Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States in 2010. ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011. Accessed 4/14/2012.
1998 3.7 8.1 11.8
2000 3.1 7.3 10.5
2002 3.5 7.6 11.1
2004 3.9 8.0 11.9
2006 4.0 6.9 10.9
2008 5.7 8.9 14.6
2010 5.4 9.1 14.5
Food Security Status Among Households, by Household Composition, 2010
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.
**Family defined as a household with children less than 18 years old. Source: Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States in 2010. ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011. Accessed 4/14/2012.
Women Living Alone 6.2 7.5 13.7
Men Living Alone 7.9 7.1 15.0
Female-Headed Household, No Spouse** 10.8 24.3 35.1
Male-Headed Household, No Spouse** 6.7 18.7 25.4
Married Couple Families** 3.6 10.2 13.8