Government Agency Navigation

Women's Health USA 2013 An illustrated collection of current and historical data, published annually.

Food Security

Narrative

Food security is defined as having access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security status is determined based on individuals’ responses to questions about experiences and behaviors related to food insecurity, such as being unable to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food.1

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 but little if any reduced food intake, 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 2011, an estimated 17.9 million or 14.9 percent of all households experienced food insecurity for one or more household members at some point in the past year; this rate did not change significantly from 2010. However, the prevalence of very low food security increased from 5.4 percent in 2010 to 5.7 percent in 2011, marking a return to levels seen in 2008 and 2009.

Food security status varies by household composition. While adult men and women living alone had similar rates of food insecurity in 2011 (15.5 and 15.6 percent, respectively), female-headed households with children and no spouse present were more likely than male-headed households with no spouse present to experience food insecurity (36.8 versus 24.9 percent, respectively). Female-headed households with children were also more likely than male-headed households with children to experience very low food security (11.5 versus 7.5 percent, respectively).

1 Coleman-Jensen A, Nord M, Singh A. Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. ERR-155. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service link leaves hrsa.gov site; September 2013. Accessed 11/05/13.

2 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.

Back to top

Graphs

Data

Household Food Insecurity, 1998-2011
Year Percent of Households, Very Low Food Security Percent of Households, Low Food Security Percent of Households, Food Insecure*
*Food insecure includes very low and low food security. Percentages may not add to totals due to rounding.
Source: Coleman-Jensen A, Nord M, Andrews M, Carlson S. Household Food Security in the United States in 2011. ERR-141, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2012. Accessed 11/05/13.
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
2011 5.7 9.2 14.9
Food Security Status Among Households, by Household Composition, 2011
Household Composition Percent of Households, Very Low Food Security Percent of Households, Low Food Security Percent of Households, Food Insecure*
*Food insecure includes very low and low food security. Percentages may not add to totals due to rounding.
Source: Coleman-Jensen A, Nord M, Andrews M, Carlson S. Household Food Security in the United States in 2011. ERR-141, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2012. Accessed 11/05/13.
All Households 9.2 5.7 14.9
Women Living Alone 7.7 7.9 15.6
Men Living Alone 7.4 8.0 15.5
Female-Headed Household, No Spouse (with children younger than 18 years) 25.3 11.5 36.8
Male-Headed Household, No Spouse (with children younger than 18 years old) 17.4 7.5 24.9
Married Couple Families (with children younger than 18 years old) 10.5 3.4 13.9