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2015 Statistics for Hunger in Children

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), 15.8 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.

Food Insecurity

  • 15.8 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2013.
  • Twenty percent or more of the child population in 38 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2013, according to the most recent data available. The District of Columbia (31%) and Mississippi (29%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.
  • In 2013, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were D.C., Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Georgia.
  • In 2013, the top five states with the lowest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were North Dakota, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

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.
  • 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.
  • Nearly one in four (24%) client households with children report participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Poverty Statistics

  • In 2013, 14.7 million or approximately 20 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.

Participation in Federal Nutrition Programs

  • In fiscal year 2013, 44 percent of all SNAP participants were children under age 18.
  • During the 2014 federal fiscal year, more than 21.5 million low-income children received free or reduced-price meals daily through the National School Lunch Program.Unfortunately, in 2014 fewer than 2.7 million children participated daily in the Summer Food Service Program.

research project found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford basic non-food household goods—including products related to personal care, household care and baby care—and, as a result, make trade-offs with other living expenses and employ coping strategies to secure essential household goods.

Coping strategies and spending tradeoffs employed by low-income families struggling to afford basic necessities in the previous 12 months include:

  • 39% of families reported brushing their teeth without toothpaste.
  • 40% of families reported skipping or delaying paying rent.
  • 44% of families reported delaying changing a diaper.
  • 49% of families reported cutting back on medical expenses.
  • 64% of families reported skipping or delaying paying utility bills.
  • 74% of families reported skipping washing dishes or doing laundry.

In Short Supply also found that more than 4 out of 5 families unable to afford basic necessities also classify as food insecure, illustrating that struggling families have difficulty not only meeting their basic needs, but their need for food as well.

In this two-part research project, commissioned by Feeding America and supported by a research grant from Procter & Gamble, the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign first conducted qualitative interviews in fall 2011 with 25 food pantry clients about non-food essentials. These interviews were then used to inform a nationally representative, quantitative phone survey of 1,876 households with children, conducted by Abt SRBI from January through March 2012. Low-income families, those with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), were oversampled to ensure adequate representation.

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