More than 49 million Americans — one in seven — struggled to get enough to eat in 2008, the highest total in 14 years of a federal survey on “food insecurity,” the U.S. government said Monday.
While Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said programs such as food stamps softened the impact of an economic recession, anti-hunger groups pointed to the huge increase from the preceding year when 36.2 million people had trouble getting enough food and a third of them occasionally went hungry.
“The survey suggested that things could be much worse but for the fact that we have extensive food assistance programs,” Vilsack told reporters. “This is a great opportunity to put a spotlight on this problem.”
About 14.6 percent of U.S. households, equal to 49.1 million people, “had difficulty obtaining food for all their members due to a lack of resources” during 2008, up 3.5 percentage points from 2007 when 11.1 percent of households were classified as food insecure.
About 5.7 percent of households, or 17.3 million people, had “very low food security,” meaning some members of the household had to eat less. Typically, food runs short in those households for a few days in seven or eight months of the year, USDA said.
President Barack Obama called the USDA report “unsettling” and vowed to reverse the trend of rising hunger.
“Our children’s ability to grow, learn, and meet their full potential — and therefore our future competitiveness as a nation — depends on regular access to healthy meals,” Obama said in a statement.
Hunger in US at a 14 year high – New York Times