Hunger Hits 17 Million American Families in 2008, USDA Reports

Article excerpt

More families had difficulty putting food on the table in 2008 than ever recorded by the federal government's annual food security report.

The report found 17 million households, or 14.6 percent of the U.S. population, were "food insecure" at some time in 2008, the highest number since the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated the annual report in 1995. It also marked a dramatic increase from the 13 million households that had difficulty putting food on the table in 2007.

The report also found that one-third of food-insecure households had what was termed as "very low food security," meaning food intake of some household members was reduced and their eating habits were disrupted at times during the year. In 2008, there were 6.7 million households facing very low food security, USDA reported, up from 4.7 million households in 2007.

"The Department of Agriculture's nutrition assistance programs provide a safety net that improves food access to those with critical needs, but addressing the root of hunger requires a broader strategy," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "By improving access to federal nutrition programs and working with our partners at all levels of government and society, we can make progress in our effort to reduce and eventually eliminate childhood hunger."

While children are often shielded when families struggle, 1.3 percent of households with children experienced very low food security in 2008. President Barack Obama said the Nov. 16 release of the report "as American families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving" was "unsettling."

"It is particularly troubling that there were more than 500,000 families in which a child experienced hunger multiple times over the course of the year," Obama said in a White House statement. "Our children's ability to grow, learn and meet their full potential--and therefore our future competitiveness as a nation--depends on regular access to healthy meals. …