New Data: Number of U.S. Food Insecure 20% Higher than During Bill Clinton-Era Boom

09.04.2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 

CONTACT:

Nicole Aber, (646) 627-7741, Naber@hungerfreeamerica.org           

New Federal Data: In 2018, When Economy Was Still Strong, 37.2 Million Americans Struggled Against Hunger

# Food Insecure More Than Combined Populations of OH, GA, New England 

Hunger Dipped in 2018, but Number Still More than Pre-2008 Recession

Number of Food Insecure 20% Higher than During Bill Clinton-Era Boom

One in Seven U.S. Children Still Lack Sufficient Food

Advocates: “When Recession Arrives, So Will Mass Food Deprivation”

“Trump Food Cuts Would Make Horrid Situation Even More Horrid”

Fully 37.2 million Americans – more than the combined populations of Ohio, Georgia, and the five states of New England – lived in households in 2018 defined by the federal government as “food insecure,” unable to always afford enough food, according to the annual report on hunger and food insecurity published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today.

In contrast, the wealthiest 400 Americans had a combined net worth of $2.9 trillion in 2018, according to Forbes. That $2.9 trillion figure is the equivalent of $77,956 for each of the 37.2 million Americans struggling against hunger.

The number of food insecure Americans in 2018 reflects a dip from 2017, when 40 million Americans struggled against hunger, but it is still three percent higher than the 36.2 million level in 2007, just before the recession, and 20 percent higher than the 31 million level in 1999, during the President Bill Clinton-era economic boom.

In response, Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide advocacy and direct service organization, said, “It’s highly significant that, even in 2018, when the overall U.S. economy was still theoretically strong, more that 37 million of our fellow Americans couldn’t afford enough food. Hunger is unacceptable in any society, but it’s particularly outrageous in the United States, where, in the same year, the 400 richest Americans had a combined net worth of $2.9 trillion. The evidence is clear that we need to increase federal nutrition benefits, not slash them, as President Trump is now unilaterally trying to thwart the will of Congress to do.” 

The USDA report also found that, in 2018, 11.1 million American children (one in seven children) lived in food insecure households, down from 12.5 million in 2017. Advocates attributed this decline to both stronger economic conditions for parents and increased participation in the National School Breakfast Program. Advocates cautioned, however, that if the Trump Administration’s plan to knock half a million children off school meals succeeds, domestic child hunger would again increase.

Hunger Free America’s Berg added: “While the dip in hunger over the last year is certainly welcome news, the reality that the U.S. is still hungrier than before the recession proves that this country still suffers from major structural flaws including low-wages and a shredded government safety net combined with sky-high costs of living. These systemic issues result in the U.S. having the highest rate of hunger in the industrialized world, even per capita. Again, that was all occurring when the overall economy was strong. Because of these structural flaws, when the next recession comes, there will be mass food deprivation. As a nation, we are now utterly unprepared to deal with the astronomical increase in human needs that will be caused by the next economic downturn. The proposed Trump food aid cuts – which would take food away from hungry children, working parents, people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans – would make an already horrid situation even more horrid. I know ‘worser’ isn’t a word, but if a recession occurs and/or the Trump food cuts become reality, we will go from worse to worser.”

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