Food insecurity among U.S. households on the rise

A new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals that an increasing number of U.S. households doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
A student holds a tray full of food
Just under 9% of households with children said that they were unable at times to provide nutritious food to their children in 2022, the report reveals. | Photo: Shutterstock

The percentage of American households experiencing food insecurity has risen, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Just under 13% of of U.S. households were food insecure in 2022, the report reveals. In 2021, that percentage was 10.2%. 

The percentage of children suffering from food insecurity has also increased. In 2022, 8.8% of U.S. households with children (3.3 million households) reported that they were unable at times to provide nutritious food to their children, a bump up from 6.2 percent (2.3 million households) in 2021 and 7.6% (2.9 million households) in 2020.

While the report did not explicitly state what may have led to the increase in food insecurity amongst U.S. households, the expiration of the USDA waivers in June 2022 that allowed school nutrition programs to feed every student for free may have played a role. 

Since the expiration of the waivers, a handful of states have passed legislation to continue offering universal free meals. Other states have expanded free school meal access by providing free breakfast and lunch to students who qualify for reduced-price meals. 

School nutrition programs in states that reverted back to charging for meals have seen an increased amount of school meal debt. For example, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) in Louisville, Ky., had already accumulated around $53,000 in meal debt by the middle of last school year. Schools in New York have also seen a spike in unpaid school meals, according to a report by Hunger Solution New York. 

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has been a longtime proponent of serving free meals at school to all students. It has advocated for universal free meals in its annual Position Paper over the past couple of years. 

Food industry leaders have also come out in support for feeding every child for free at school. At the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health last September, celebrity chef and World Central Kitchen Founder José Andrés called for the expansion of free school meal access during his keynote speech, saying that schools could “improve the food health of our entire country.”



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