Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for 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), 15.9 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.[i] 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.
Feeding America addresses child hunger through two national programs:
Back Pack Program
- 15.9 million children lived in food insecure households in 2012.[ii]
- 20 percent or more of the child population in 37 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2012, according to the most recent data available. New Mexico (29%) and Mississippi (29%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.[iii]
- In 2012, the top five states with the highest rate of food insecure children under 18 are New Mexico, Mississippi, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.[iv]
- In 2012, the top five states with the lowest rate of food insecure children under 18 are North Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.[v]
Charitable Food Assistance
- Twelve million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 3.5 million of which are ages 5 and under.[vi]
- Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children. While almost all (94%) of client households with school-aged children (ages 5-18) report participating in the National School Lunch Program, only 46 percent report participating in the School Breakfast Program.[vii]
- Nearly one in four (24%) client households with children report participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).[viii]
- In 2012, 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 2012, 45 percent of all SNAP participants were children under age 18.[x]
- During the 2013 federal fiscal year, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program.[xi] Unfortunately, in 2013 less than 2.5 million children participated daily in the Summer Food Service Program.[xii]
[iii] Gundersen, C., E. Engelhard, A. Satoh, & E. Waxman. Map the Meal Gap 2014: Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level. Feeding America, 2014.
[vi] Feeding America, Hunger in America 2014, National Report. August 2014.