For some Americans, making ends meet is a struggle even in a strong economy. These households at times have difficulty meeting their food needs and can’t always afford enough food to get them through the month, or the week. During economic downturns, these situations become more common and more serious.
Each year since 1995, USDA has monitored the level of food security — consistent access to adequate food for an active, healthy life. Since 2000, we’ve been authors of the annual report on food security published by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) with the collaboration of the Food and Nutrition Service. Today we released our report covering 2008. It was a year of economic downturn, and we saw the number of U.S. households classified as food insecure reach the highest level recorded since 1995.
In 2008 the number of food-insecure households grew to 17.1 million, or 14.6 percent of all households, up from 11.1 percent the previous year. Among households with children, the percentage increase was larger – from 15.8 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2008.
Our numbers include a subset of households that experienced more frequent and severe food insecurity, which we call very low food security. In these households, the food intake of some household members was actually reduced, and normal eating patterns are disrupted. In 2008, these households amounted to 5.7 percent of U.S. households, up from 4.1 percent in 2007.
We’re also seeing the recession reflected in the 2008 expenditures on USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program); at $37.7 billion, expenditures were up 13 percent from the previous year. And we’ve found that for SNAP participants, the prevalence of very low food security rose less in 2008 than among non-participants – suggesting that the food assistance programs provide a buffer against the more severe instances of food insecurity, although they can’t entirely prevent these conditions.
We view the information in the food security report as part of an overall effort to provide access to adequate, healthful food for those who need it. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs – programs like SNAP, and the National School Lunch Program – provide the core of the Nation’s nutritional safety net. It’s important for the people who operate these programs – and for our representatives in Congress – to have reliable data on the level of food security and the use of food and nutrition assistance programs both public and private. The information in the yearly food security reports is also used by community food providers and by private organizations that are working to alleviate food insecurity.
Margaret Andrews, Economist, and Mark Nord, Sociologist, USDA Economic Research Service
I had the pleasure of joining USDA Under Secretary Tonsager, Senator Kent Conrad, Senator Byron Dorgan and Congressman Earl Pomeroy in the ground-breaking of a new regional medical center in Jamestown, North Dakota. This project is a direct result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February. Read more »
On Thursday Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager participated in Trade Talk during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) convention in Kansas City. Read more »
Today USDA’s first “Turkey Tweets” campaign takes flight. Every day until Friday, Nov. 27, the Food Safety and Inspection Service will send out a fresh turkey tip via Twitter, the popular instant messaging service. The tips help you prepare a successful and safe holiday meal.
Twitter users can follow the profile @USDAfoodsafety to read all the Turkey Tweets. The tips take you day by day through buying, freezing, refrigerating, thawing, preparing, roasting and serving the bird—and, of course, to storing and eating the leftovers.
You can find all the Turkey Tweets on Twitter by searching or clicking on the #turkeytweets hashtag.
Live Facebook Chat on Safe Turkey
One week from today FSIS’s food safety education staff introduces another innovative way to connect: A live Facebook chat with Diane Van of the Food Safety Education Service. She’ll answer questions about safe holiday food prep on the USDA Facebook page on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. Eastern time.
You can ask questions during the chat or leave them in advance on the Live Chat page.
Twitter and Facebook Join USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline & Ask Karen Services
The new Turkey Tweets and Facebook Chat join two long-standing USDA holiday food safety outreach services:
- The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline phone service, available daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, in English and Spanish. 1-888-674-6854 (Special Thanksgiving Day hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET)
- The Ask Karen “virtual assistant” service, which provides answers to common food safety questions 24/7 at www.askkaren.gov.
It’s a source of pride to me that South Dakota is benefitting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February. As an example, the South Dakota Municipal League is breaking ground on a lot in the Teton Island Addition in Fort Pierre for new office and training space. The new facility will provide office space for six employees, plus two additional spaces to allow for future staff expansion. These federal funds will help improve services offered by the League, including trainings and meetings sessions. Read more »