Wednesday, September 03, 2014

With little progress against poverty, U.S. household food insecurity remains above 14%

The prevalence of household food insecurity in the United States remained above 14% in 2013, according to new data released today by USDA's Economic Research Service.

Here is the abstract to today's report:
An estimated 14.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.5 percent in 2012 was not statistically significant.The prevalence of very low food security was essentially unchanged at 5.6 percent.
Household food insecurity means that some household members at some times of the year experienced food-related hardships (the household respondent gave 3 or more "yes" answers to a set of 18 survey questions about experiences of hardship).

The high rate of household food insecurity represents a major disappointment for U.S. anti-poverty policy. Rates of household food insecurity fell during the economic expansion of the 1990s, stagnated in the early 2000s, and rose dramatically during the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Despite hopes for renewed economic growth and reduced unemployment, these remain very difficult times for low-income Americans.

In previous years, the United States solemnly adopted targets for reducing the prevalence of food insecurity from 12% (the level observed in the mid-1990s) to 6%. As my chart (based on USDA data) shows, this effort to improve U.S. food security has failed. Yet, neither Democrats nor Republicans talk much any more about any substantial realistic strategy for poverty reduction -- with serious objectives, quantitative targets, and implementation steps. Though food assistance is of course important, poverty reduction is the most promising approach to improving household food security in the United States.

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