Food insecurity


Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources.


Food insecurity and poor nutrition are closely linked, with individuals with the most food insecure are at higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes, hypertension coronary disease, stroke, cancer, and associated conditions.


In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.


In 2019-2020 it was estimated nutritional insecurity affected 10.8% of the US households.

Estimated 13.8 million food insecure US households in 2020.

Estimated that in 2020 the prevalence of food insecurity among African-American/Black households was estimated at 21.7% and among Latin/Hispanic households it was estimated at 17.2%, both substantially higher than the overall estimated prevalence of 13.5%.

About one in 10 children lived in a food insecure household 2019 to 2020 (CDC).

In 2014, 17.4 million U.S. households were food insecure at some time during the year.


Income inequality has increased, with self reported food insecurity disproportionately affecting individuals with lower incomes.


Hunger  is a possible outcome of food insecurity.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.


Hunger and food insecurity are closely related, but distinct concepts. 


Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort.


Food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.


Food insecurity is closely related to poverty, but not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity.


People living above the poverty line can experience food insecurity, as well.


Food insecurity does not exist in isolation.


Food insecurity is associated with low-income, lack of affordable housing, social isolation, chronic or acute health problems, high medical costs, and low wages. 


Food insecurity is associated with social determinants of health and conditions in the environment  in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age.


Food insecurity impacts every community in the United States. 


There are four levels of household food security.


Households with high food security and marginal food security make up the food secure category.


Households with low food security and very low food security make up the food insecure category.


Low food security: reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet, but no indication of reduced food intake.


Very low food security: disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.


Food insecurity may be long term or temporary problem.


Food insecurity  is influenced by income, employment, race/ethnicity, and disability. 


The risk for food insecurity increases when money to buy food is limited or not available: 31.6% of low-income households are food insecure, compared to the national average of 12.3%.


High unemployment rates among low-income populations is associated with high food insecurity.


Similarly, children of unemployed parents have higher rates of food insecurity than children with employed parents.


Black households nearly 2 times more likely to be food insecure than the national average, 22.5% versus 12.3%, respectively: among Hispanic households, the prevalence of food insecurity is 18.5% compared to the national average (12.3%).


Disabled adults may be at a higher risk for food insecurity due to limited employment opportunities and health care-related expenses.


Neighborhood conditions affect physical access to food: redominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods have fewer full-service supermarkets than predominantly white neighborhoods.


Convenience stores and are more common in such neighborhoods than full-service supermarkets or grocery stores, with foods at higher prices, lower quality, and less variety.


In such neighborhoods transportation options are limited, and the travel distance to stores is greater, with  fewer supermarkets.


People living in low-income predominantly black neighborhoods of Detroit travel an average of 1.1 miles farther to the closest supermarket than people living in low-income predominantly white neighborhoods.


Food-insecure adults may be at an increased risk for obesity, and higher rates of chronic diseases.


 Food-insecure children may be at an increased risk for negative health outcomes, including: obesity, developmental problems and mental health.

Children who experience hunger and food and security a less likely to perform well in school and to attain a higher education.

Unemployment and underemployment contribute to food insecurity, and adults who lack access to quality food are less likely to achieve and maintain employment.

The levels of hunger in the US are high and increasing with serious health consequences and multi generational effects.

  • Food assistance programs, may reduce food insecurity.


Caloric insufficiency has largely been eliminated in the US and greatly reduced globally, but disparities remain in access to healthy and affordable food, at the same time the prevalence obesity in the US has increased significantly.

Food insecurity and lack of access to affordable nutritious food are strongly associated with chronic multiple health conditions including: diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, mental disorders, lower HIV medication adherence, drug and alcohol use, and other chronic conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the US food insecurity level, limiting economic opportunity and mobility.


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