Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important in establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 16.7 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences.
We address child hunger through two national programs:
- 16.7 million children lived in food insecure households in 2011.[i]
- 20% or more of the child population in 36 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2010. The District of Columbia (30.7%) and Oregon (29.0%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.[ii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the highest rate of food insecure children under 18 are the District of Columbia, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, & Florida.[iii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the lowest rate of food insecure children under 18 are North Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, & Massachusetts. [iv]
Emergency Food Assistance
- Nearly 14 million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3 million of which are ages 5 and under.[v]
- Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children. 62 percent of client households with children under the age of 18 reported participating in the National School Lunch Program, but only 14 percent reported having a child participate in a summer feeding program that provides free food when school is out. [vi]
- 54 percent of client households with children under the age of 3 participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).[vii]
- 32 percent of pantries, 42 percent of kitchens, and 18 percent of shelters in the Feeding America network reported "many more children in the summer" being served by their programs.[viii]
- In 2011, 16.1 million or approximately 22 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty. [ix]
Participation in Federal Nutrition Programs
- In fiscal year 2010, 47 percent of all SNAP participants were children[x]
- During the 2011 federal fiscal year, more than 31 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program.[xi] Unfortunately, just 2.3 million children participated in the Summer Food Service Program that same year.[xii]
[i] Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., Andrews, M., & Carlson, S. (2012). Household Food Security in the United States in 2011.USDA ERS.
[ii] Gundersen, C., Waxman, E., Engelhard, E., Del Vecchio, T, Satoh, A. & Lopez-Betanzos, A. (2012). Map the Meal Gap2012: Child Food Insecurity. Feeding America.
[v] Rhoda Cohen, J., Mabli, F., Potter, Z., Zhao. (2010). Hunger in America. Mathematica Policy Research, Feeding America.
[ix] DeNavas-Walt, C., B.D. Proctor, J.C. Smith. (2012). Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011. U.S. Census Bureau.
[x] Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2010. (2011). USDA FNS.
[xi] National School Lunch Program: Participation and Lunches Served. Data preliminary as of August 2012. USDA, FNS.