Nearly one in five Americans struggle with food insecurity

Published in FSD Update

A new study finds that Mississippi is the state with the highest percentage of residents who struggle to buy food.

In this month’s Editor’s Letter, I wrote about a new focus for my blog in the upcoming months: hunger. In the column I wrote:

“The sad truth is that in 2012, 49 million Americans lived in a food insecure household, nearly 16 million of those were children, according to Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity.

“It’s hard to fathom that so many people don’t have enough food to eat, especially when you consider that nearly 70 billion pounds of edible food—70 billion—is thrown away in the United States each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That figure includes waste that occurs at every stage of the creation and distribution process, from farmers to manufacturers to cafeterias. A lot of the waste is due to the perishable nature of items like meat and fresh produce.”

A new Gallup study was released this week that shows the states where residents were the most and least likely to be food insecure. For the sixth year, Mississippi topped the list, with a whopping 25.1% of its residents—one in four—who struggle to afford food. Rounding out the top 10 are: West Virginia (23%), Louisiana (23%), Alabama (22.9%), Arkansas (22.5%), North Carolina (22.2%), Kentucky (21.8%), Georgia (21.5%), Oklahoma (21.2%) and Arizona (21.1%).

The state with the fewest number of residents who are food insecure was Alaska at 11%. That’s more than one in 10 people in the state who say they struggle to afford food. And that’s the best.

The average nationwide is 18.9%. That’s up slightly from 2012’s 18.2%.

The survey’s authors note that in order to curb the uptick in food insecurity, there need to be more resources in food assistance programs. “However, Congress passed an update to the Farm Bill in early 2014 that cuts approximately $8 billion from national food assistance programs over the next decade,” the authors wrote. “This could make it harder for states to help their residents who struggle to afford food.”

You can read more from the study here.