Another public health crisis: 1 in 8 U.S. households struggle with food insecurity, government report finds

Personal finance

People wait in line for a meal served by Queens Together, local restaurants and The First Baptist Church with help of Northwell Health and Ponce Bank in New York on May 6, 2023.
Selcuk Acar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The share of U.S. households facing hunger is rising at an alarming pace.

Nearly 13% of American households were food-insecure in 2022. That means some 17 million families, or 1 in 8 U.S. households, struggled to meet their nutritional needs at some point in the year, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The prevalence was “significantly higher” in 2022 than in 2021, when 13.5 million households were food insecure, according to the USDA.

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“The results are unacceptable,” USDA Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean said.

Food insecurity is even more of a challenge for certain groups.

More than 22% of Black-led families reported food insecurity in 2022, and more than 33% of single mother-led households did.

The department’s findings come from an annual survey of nearly 32,000 households conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“There is no excuse for anyone going hungry in America,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “Congress must act now to make substantial investments in anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.”

Consequences of expired pandemic-era aid

Pandemic-era aid programs, including the emergency expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, rental assistance and direct stimulus payments, led to a record decline in poverty, experts say. At the same time, food insecurity rates fell, too.

“It speaks to the importance of a strong safety net,” Dean said.

However, most of these relief measures wound down or expired in 2022, with many states reducing their emergency SNAP allotments.

“The unwinding of critical Covid-19 pandemic interventions has made it more difficult for millions of families to afford to put food on the table,” Guardia said.

Those facing food insecurity are at more than double the risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, one study found. Food insecurity is also associated with a much higher likelihood of developing multiple chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Last year, the American College of Physicians said food insecurity had become a threat to public health in the U.S.

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