New USDA Data: 41.2 Million Americans – and 12.9 Million Children – Still Struggle Against Hunger


For Immediate Release: September 6, 2017                                                 

Contact: Magen Allen, (212) 825-0028, ext. 212                                           

New USDA Data: 41.2 Million Americans – and 12.9 Million Children –

Still Struggle Against Hunger

Racial Disparities Still Vast in Food Access

Obama Failed to Carry Out Pledge to End Child Hunger
Advocates Decry “Growing Gap Between Wall Street and Main Street” and Cuts to SNAP Proposed by President Trump and House G.O.P.

One in seven Americans (12.3 percent) lived in a households that couldn’t afford an adequate supply of food in 2014- 2016, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Fully 41.2 million Americans – including 12.9 children – struggled against hunger nationwide in 2016, according to the report. In contrast, in 2007, before the recession, 36 million Americans – and 17 million children – suffered from food insecurity. Hunger leaders attributed the high level of overall hunger to low wages and cuts in government programs, but said the decrease in child hunger was likely due to increasing participation of children in school breakfast and summer meals programs.

The report found that there are roughly the same number of food insecure households in cities as in suburbs.  Roughly 5.1 million food insecure households were in suburbs, while nearly 5.3 million food insecure households were in cities.  Rural America had a higher percentage of food insecure families (15 percent) than in urban (14.2 percent) and suburban (9.5 percent) America. Commented Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, “These new numbers again prove that President Trump’s repeated implication that poverty is in ‘inner cities’ is misleading at best.”

At the time of this report, the number of people in the U.S. struggling against hunger exceeds the combined populations of Texas, Michigan, and Maine. President Donald Trump’s first budget proposed $192 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly called food stamp) benefits, and the U.S. House Majority Budget Resolution would cut programs (including SNAP) serving low- and moderate-income people by $2.9 trillion from 2018-2027.

“In 2016, the Down Jones Industrial Average rose by 13% and the collective net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans (according to Forbes) rose to $2.4 trillion. That means that 400 people each had an average of six billion dollars, continued Joel Berg. “Given that, in the same year, tens of millions of Americans –across rural, suburban and urban America –suffered from hunger, the massive gap between Wall Street and Main Street is greater than ever. Not only should Washington reject the massive proposed cuts in SNAP, it should undertake a comprehensive initiative to end U.S. hunger once and for all by creating jobs, raising wages, and ensuring an adequate social safety net.”

Ruth Riley – general manager for the WNBA team the San Antonio Stars, former WNBA All-Star, NCAA and WNBA Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and board member for Hunger Free America, said: “The continued high level of hunger in America is a crises that must be addressed. This is an issue that I am deeply passionate about, and one that hits home on a very personal level. As a kid, I had limited knowledge of the food stamps (not called SNAP benefits) my mom obtained or that the schools meals I was eating were paid for by the federal government, but I just knew that, somehow, when we needed it, there was always food. Because I had this food, I was able to learn and focus in school, which ultimately led me to graduate with honors from the University of Notre Dame. It also fueled my real passion, basketball. I’m grateful and proud of the success I’ve had in winning championships at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. I often joke that growing up I was tall, lanky and uncoordinated. Looking back, I can’t imagine what my path would have been if I’d been tall, lanky, uncoordinated...and hungry. When times were tough, the nutrition I received through programs like food stamps and school meals helped me grow stronger.”

The report also found that, in 2016, while the largest number of hungry Americans were White; Black and Hispanic Americans were more than twice as likely to be food insecure as Whites. Said Berg, “Nothing better illustrates the horrid racial divisions that still mar America than the reality that non-Whites are twice as likely to suffer food deprivation as Whites. Given that most Americans – of all races – who suffer from food insecurity are working in one or more jobs, the main reason for such disparities is clearly the result of the country’s deep, continuing, structural racism.”

In 2008, then-candidate Obama pledged to end U.S. child hunger by 2015, but USDA found that, in 2015, 13.1 million U.S. children lived in food insecure households. In 2016, the number was 12.9 children. Berg continued, “While President Obama deserved some credit for reducing the problem, both he and Republican lawmakers must share the blame for problematic economic policies, coupled with budget cuts that not only prevented the U.S. from ending children hunger, but gave the U.S. the highest rate of child hunger out of any industrialized Western democracy. It’s time for the U.S. to joining the ranks of truly civilized countries by ending child hunger as a down payment on ending all hunger.”