In 2018, food insecurity returned to the pre-recession level of 11.1 percent, last observed in 2007.
By Alisha Coleman-Jensen
Food Assistance Branch, Economic Research Service
In 2018, food insecurity returned to the pre-recession level of 11.1 percent, last observed in 2007. It is down from 11.8 percent in 2017 and a high of 14.9 percent in 2011. USDA’s Economic Research Service recently released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2018 on the incidence and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households. In 2018, 14.3 million households had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of financial or other resources.
This year’s report, using data from December 2018, shows that 88.9 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning that all household members had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.
Food insecurity increased substantially in 2008 with the onset of the Great Recession and has been declining since 2011 when food insecurity peaked. Returning to the 2007 prevalence has been a point of interest for many that follow trends in food insecurity. Compared with other measures of hardship, like unemployment and poverty, food insecurity took longer to return to pre-recession levels.
Very low food security is the severe range of food insecurity characterized by reductions in food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to limited resources. In 2018, 4.3 percent of American households experienced very low food security. This was not significantly different from 4.5 percent in 2017. Before the Great Recession, very low food security was 4.1 percent in 2007 and then increased to 5.7 percent in 2008. In 2018, very low food security had nearly reached the pre-recession level.
Despite recent improvements in the national food insecurity prevalence, some groups continue to face higher than average food insecurity rates. In 2018, 35.3 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty level were food insecure. Among single mother households with children, 27.8 percent were food insecure in 2018, and among single father households with children, 15.9 percent were food insecure. Food insecurity affected 21.2 percent of Black, non-Hispanic households and 16.2 percent of Hispanic households.
For more information about food insecurity in 2018, including by demographic characteristics, across States, and changes over time, take a look at Household Food Security in the United States in 2018. Also see ERS’s interactive food security data visualizations and media resources.